Signs of re-normalization in the foreign diplomatic corps are evidenced by the scheduled presentation of credentials by new ambassadors to President Reuven Rivlin this coming Wednesday, July 8.
There has not been a presentation of credentials ceremony at the President’s Residence since early January when Rivlin received the credentials of the ambassadors of Gambia, Thailand, El Salvador and Benin.
He was scheduled to receive the credentials of the ambassadors of Colombia, Greece, Denmark and China on March 23 in what had been planned as a scaled down ceremony that would meet Health Ministry requirements.
But as the nation went into lockdown following a spike in COVID-19 cases and fatalities, the ceremony was canceled. The four envoys might have remained ambassadors designated indefinitely, a status that would have prevented them from fully exercising their diplomatic duties.
As a way around this, the Foreign Affairs Ministry introduced an emergency protocol that gave all four (and any other ambassadors arriving during the pandemic) official tenure.
The official tenure for all four began on March 23, the date on which they had been initially told that they would present their credentials.
Unfortunately, the Chinese ambassador Du Wei never reached the point where he would be among the ambassadors presenting credentials on Wednesday. He passed away at his residence in mid-May after suffering a heart attack.
In addition to the three other ambassadors Margarita Eliana Manjarrez Herrera of Colombia, Panagiotis Sarris of Greece and Anne Dorte Riggelsen of Denmark, there will be two more recently arrived ambassadors – Radu Ioanid of Romania and Sergio Daniel Urribarri of Argentina.
The ceremonies will be somewhat different from the norm, partially due to the need for social distancing.
In the past, the president along with senior Foreign Ministry officials and senior representatives of his own office received each ambassador in the main reception hall and then everyone moved on to a smaller reception room where the president and the ambassador engaged in a private chat.
However, as each ambassador usually arrives with spouse and children, and sometimes also with parents as well as with senior embassy staff, it was thought that health-wise, it would be much more prudent to have the private chat in the main hall.
Several diplomatic activities have been held on Zoom, including the president’s Israel Independence Day reception for diplomats, but less than a handful of ambassadors, including those of Georgia and Russia, opted to celebrate their national days with live receptions, with a significantly pared down guest list.