Grapevine: A model diplomat of a different kind

A round-up of news from around the nation.

Luis Moreno Ocampo visits Yad Vashem’s Avenue of the Righteous (photo credit: Courtesy)
Luis Moreno Ocampo visits Yad Vashem’s Avenue of the Righteous
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel’s former ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender, who three months ago concluded her tenure in Moscow, has caused shock waves in the Foreign Ministry by becoming the Russian-language presenter for Jacques Cobe lingerie.
Prior to her appointment as ambassador, Golender headed the Russian-language division of Radio Reka. There was some controversy over her appointment by then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, based on her lack of diplomatic experience, coupled with the fact that Moscow is such an important posting. But in the final analysis, it was acknowledged that she had acquitted herself well.
Now past retirement age but still beautiful, Golender, who was frequently featured in the Russian media, and is therefore a familiar face to the Russian public, is helping Cobe to sell lingerie in Moscow and beyond. She isn’t modeling the lingerie, she’s simply standing alongside a display, while fully clad in a high-necked, long-sleeved dress with the hemline reaching well below the knee.
While some people at the Foreign Ministry think it is unbecoming for a former ambassador to be presenting lingerie, Golender’s argument is that ambassadors are not a breed apart, and that they wear underwear, too.
■ IN A technological era, in a country famous for its technological innovations, one would think that someone would have come up with a technological means of eliminating cyber incitement as it hits the screen. But even before some genius devises such an application, the Knesset or the judiciary must determine a clear definition of what differentiates incitement from free speech and legitimate criticism.
Even some of the defenders of the presidency in general and President Reuven Rivlin in particular, who this week has been the target of attacks from his own right-wing ranks, were inadvertent parties to incitement when they recalled similar attacks against Yitzhak Rabin and suggested both in the Knesset and via social and traditional media that the writing is on the wall and that there may be would-be assassins out there plotting to kill the president.
People in this part of the world tend to be very emotional, and not everyone who either defended or attacked the president for appearing at the Haaretz-New Israel Fund conference in New York did so from a rational perspective. Two events at the conference – the participation of Breaking the Silence and the removal of the Israeli flag at the request of Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat – were the sources of great controversy which resulted in many of the angry, hateful and inciting comments that appeared on Facebook.
That Rivlin is the president of all Israelis, including the ones with whom he disagrees, seems to have escaped his vehement critics, as has his comment that he was not appearing at a Breaking the Silence conference but at a Haaretz conference.
He had asked to have the Israeli flag on stage during his address, and Erekat had asked for it to be removed during his. Organizers simply complied with both requests.
Among the people who came to Rivlin’s defense was his immediate predecessor, Shimon Peres, who after landing in China, where he was a guest of honor at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology, issued a statement in which he said that any incitement against the president is tantamount to incitement against the state.
Peres said that he is against any form of incitement, especially that which harms the nation, its children and the relevance of the State of Israel. “We have one state and one president,” he declared, “and there must be zero tolerance for any incitement or violence against him.”
While making allowances for differences of opinion, Peres said that it is the obligation of every citizen of Israel to do his utmost to safeguard national unity.
The worst castigation and incitement came from Channel 20, on its own Facebook page. While the channel’s chairman, Moti Sklar, who is a former director-general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, conceded that the wording of the criticism was problematic and acknowledged that Rivlin is a patriot, he nonetheless defended the channel’s right to be openly critical of the president.
Writing in Haaretz this week, former minister and MK Uzi Baram, who is also a former secretary-general of the Labor Party, was one of several of Rivlin’s former political rivals who came to his defense, emphasizing in an op-ed piece that Rivlin’s great “sin” is being a true democrat.
Baram, like Rivlin, is a native son of Jerusalem. The two have known each other since their youth and, though of different political ideologies, have as their common denominator a passion for democracy. At the tail end of his article, Baram wrote: “The secular and traditional public that is still committed to democracy must wake up. In a place where people menace the president only because he bears a democratic message of brotherhood and equality, a mass protest must be raised that will reach every corner. Fascism is creeping slowly to our door, disguised as patriotism that loves the people of Israel and hates all the rest. It must not be allowed to pass.”
■ TWO DAYS after joining members and friends of the Israel Ireland Friendship League in celebrating four decades of diplomatic relations between Israel and Ireland, Irish Ambassador Alison Kelly had a small celebration of her own at her residence in Herzliya Pituah, where guests included Laars Faaborg-Andersen, the head of the European Union Delegation in Israel; Swedish Ambassador Carl Magnus Nesser; Israel’s first resident ambassador to Ireland, Zvi Gabay; Avi Rosenthal, CEO of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel; Hillel Schenker, co-editor of the Palestine- Israel Journal; and of course IIFL chairman Malcolm Gafson and his wife, Leah, who happened to be celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary.
Several of the guests had been at the IIFL event that coincided with the last night of Hanukka. Next month, Gafson will find a reason to organize a celebration marking the 20th anniversary of the exchange of resident ambassadors. It was not until January 25, 1996, that Ireland opened an embassy in Tel Aviv and Israel opened an embassy in Dublin.
At the IIFL event at the Ra’anana campus of the Open University, the evening began with traditional Irish and Hebrew tunes played by Celtic harp instrumentalist Sunita Stanislow, followed by the kindling of the Hanukka candles.
Kelly participated in a panel discussion with Boaz Moda’i, who recently completed his five-year tenure as ambassador in Dublin, and Prof. Tamar Herman, director of the Open University’s International Academic Initiatives. The discussion included enlightening insights, albeit from different perspectives, on the historical, social and cultural similarities between the people of Israel and Ireland and the ongoing diplomatic engagement to meet the challenges in relations between the two countries, which according to the speakers are each firmly committed to strengthening connections and ties.
A surprise addition to the panel was the arrival of MK Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Relations and Defense Committee, who had been in New York to attend the Saban Forum, and who came directly from the airport.
Hanegbi shared fond memories of his visit to Ireland and his love of Irish football and Irish beer. Hanegbi may have attended for altruistic reasons, but considering that he is a candidate for the chairmanship of the Likud Central Committee, with the vote taking place on December 29, he may have been courting Gafson, who is a Likud activist.
It’s a Jewish character trait to try to introduce some aspect of Jewish tradition into almost everything, and in Gafson’s case it was the traditional wish for longevity. At the conclusion of the evening, he noted that 40 years of diplomatic exchange since 1975 plus 50 years of Irish de jure recognition of Israel since 1965 plus 10 years from de jure to official recognition and 20 years since establishment of resident embassies, came to a total of 120, which according to the Bible is the age to which Moses lived. It was also the number of sages in the Sanhedrin, and today is the number of members of Knesset.
■ THE DIPLOMATIC community in Israel is so close-knit that it’s almost like family. Aside from meeting at specific diplomatic events, because so many of the diplomats live in Herzliya Pituah and Kfar Shmaryahu, they are socially in and out of each other’s homes like yo-yos, in addition to which they meet at events organized by municipalities, universities, cultural organizations, et al., and they also attend some of the events organized by the Diplomatic Spouses Club of Israel and the International Women’s Club (IWC), each of which have frequent meetings and outings.
December was a busy month for the DSCI, whose membership includes some 150 spouses of diplomats accredited to Israel from more than 60 different countries. At the beginning of the month, Mary Knight, the wife of the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy, hosted an Israeli culture program coordinated by Liz Berger (USA) and featuring guest speaker Pnina Goldstein, who taught everyone what it is like to be in Israel during Hanukka, including the meaning of the holiday, the symbols, the foods – such as doughnuts, which she referred to as sufganiyot, which is their Hebrew equivalent. She also spoke about various customs, such as Hanukka gelt, and presented each participant with a gift of gelt (coins) and a dreidel. Needless to say, Knight had made sure that there were plenty of doughnuts on the table.
A week later, former MK Einat Wilf was the guest speaker at a DSCI event at the residence of the Mexican ambassador, hosted by Evelyn Castaneda de Andion. Dr.
Wilf spoke about the unique history of Zionism and the formation of the Jewish state. Members were fascinated by her impressive presentation and asked for a follow-up session with her to learn more.
This week, DSCI teamed up with the IWC to host their annual joint holiday party. More than 160 people gathered at the residence of the United States ambassador to Israel, hosted by his wife and DSCI president Julie Fisher, to celebrate friendship across cultures and religions.
IWC president Catherine De Renesse had dreamed for many years of starting a choir, and the dream was realized with singers from both clubs, who regaled the bursting-at-the-seams crowd with Hanukka and Christmas songs and classic songs from around the world. Talented soloist Liran Saporta added her remarkable voice to the event with songs in Spanish, Hebrew, English and Italian.
Accomplished musician and IWC vice president Tsippi Ben-Sheffer accompanied the choir on piano. The truly international choir featured solos in Swedish and German.
Fortunately, despite forecasts to the contrary, the weather was fine, and the celebration continued after the performance with lunch outside in the sunshine.
■ IN THE spirit of coexistence, Niccolo Manniello, the new Italian consul, hosted a Hanukka-Christmas party at his residence in Tel Aviv, where, like several events of this kind, Hanukka candles were lit against the backdrop of a Christmas tree, and songs appropriate to both festivals were sung. Among the guests were Gianluigi Vassallo, the deputy chief of mission at the Italian Embassy; Mudu Saad, a representative of the Druse community; Shadi Halul, from the Forum for the Recruitment into the IDF of Christian Arabs; Greek Consul Alexandros Yennimata; and advocacy agent Einat Olivier Zeitan.
■ THE WEITZ Center for Development Studies, which operates under the auspices of the World Zionist Organization and the United Israel Appeal, celebrated its jubilee, with the participation of numerous guests from Israel and abroad, including ambassadors from nearly all Latin American countries with which Israel has diplomatic ties, among them: Ambassador of Paraguay Max Haber, Ambassador of Peru Gustavo Antonio Otero Zapata, Ambassador of Uruguay Nestor Rosa, and Ambassador of Honduras Jose Barahona Herrera.
WZO chairman Avraham Duvdevani lauded outgoing Weitz Center chairman Yitzhak Lax and said that beyond its invaluable contribution to the development and efficiency of Israeli industry, and its numerous environmental projects in Israel and abroad, the Weitz Center plays a significant role in advancing and cementing friendships between Israel and other countries and in fostering international cooperation.
■ THERE WERE a lot of congratulatory wishes flowing between the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv offices of The Jerusalem Post this week when two editorial staff members each became a father for the second time, and each welcomed a baby girl into the family. Crime and police reporter Ben Hartman, who resides in Tel Aviv with his wife, Ricky Ben-David, who is a former Post op-ed editor, said hello to the stork on Sunday, upon the birth of Elinor Marie. Uriel Sturm, the Post’s sports editor, who lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Leah, followed suit on Tuesday, upon the birth of Clarie Lielle.
■ UKRAINE PRESIDENT Petro Poroshenko is due to pay a state visit to Israel next week. This will be his first visit in his presidential capacity, though he did pay a brief low-key visit to Israel prior to his election in 2014.
■ AMONG THE visitors to Yad Vashem’s Avenue of the Righteous this week was Luis Moreno Ocampo, the founding prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Ocampo is in Israel lecturing at the Fried- Gal Transitional Justice Initiative at the Hebrew University’s School of Law.
Institutions such as Yad Vashem that commemorate genocides and crimes against humanity are important elements in the toolbox of Transitional Justice, allowing societies and groups involved in genocidal conflicts and crimes against humanity to heal, learn and move forward, he said. The Hebrew University program is supported by the Gal Foundation, founded by American-Israeli philanthropist and filmmaker Julie Gal.
■ AFTER SPENDING most of his adult life as a public servant, Daniel Seaman, the former longtime director of the Government Press Office, has been appointed managing director of the Israel office of New Jersey-based international public relations firm Steinreich Communications. Seaman, who brings more than 30 years of communications experience to the firm, will spearhead a team working with clients in different areas of travel and tourism, healthcare, education, technology, government and nongovernmental organizations.
Seaman served as the director of the GPO for a decade, working under six prime ministers. He also served as the deputy director-general of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and was a spokesman for the IDF, and served in the Foreign Ministry as an attaché in New York.
Stan Steinrich, the company’s president and CEO, said that Seaman’s background of creating and implementing strategic communications programs for the government, his broad range of skills and experience and his close relationships with literally hundreds of journalists in Israel and around the world combine to make him a real asset for the company’s clients and staff.
After completing his military service in an elite Paratroop unit, Seaman earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at the City University of New York’s Hunter College while serving at the Israel Consulate in New York. Seaman lives in Jerusalem with his wife and four children.
For Seaman, the transition from being a public servant to working for a PR firm that inter alia promotes Israel and Jewish causes is not an entirely unusual step.
“In my new role, we are working to promote the great work of our clients for the people of Israel and beyond,” he said. “Yes, I wear a different hat, but the work of promoting Israel to constituencies around the world remains the same.”