Grapevine: Two stars are born

Presidential roses for the singing soloists, a visit from our best Pacific friends, and a warm welcome for Peres from the women of WIZO.

grapes 88 (photo credit: )
grapes 88
(photo credit: )
THEY DIDN'T compete in 'A Star is Born', but two new stars shone in Israel last week when 13 year-old Adi Bar-Lev from Raanana and 14-year old Sharyan Marawi from Jaffa serenaded Presidents Shimon Peres and George W. Bush at Beit Hanassi. Each of the presidents gave each of the two singers a long-stemmed red rose. Afterwards, the two singing soloists came in for a lot of attention from media and from Beit Hanassi staff. Adi's mother Nili was there and gave her daughter a huge hug. "I'm very proud of her," she said. "She represented us with honor and she moved the whole nation with her singing." Asked if she knew that Bush would give her the rose, Sharyan replied in the affirmative, but even though the gesture had been planned and was not spontaneous, it did not diminish her excitement. "It's one thing to see him on TV," she said, "but to meet him face to face - wow!" Miri Yachin, the Knesset's Chief of Protocol, came clutching a photograph that she had taken with Bush in 1998 when he visited the Knesset in his capacity as governor of Texas. She had quipped to him then that she only posed with presidents and prime ministers. To which he had said: "I'm going to be president one day." Foreign Ministry Chief of Protocol Yitzhak Eldan said that Bush was one of the easiest and most comfortable people to work with. "He came off the plane totally relaxed and immediately made everyone else feel at ease. He looked around at the welcoming committing, then grinned and asked 'Do I deserve all this?'" n THE LARGE press contingent that accompanied Bush included Jewish Telegraphic Agency White House correspondent Ron Kampeas, a Canadian who spent several years in Israel before moving to the US. Kampeas is also a former editorial staff member of The Jerusalem Post. He didn't fly in with the Bush press contingent because it was too expensive. All those who traveled with the president or in the accompanying plane, said Kampeas, had to pay out $20,000. That was just a little too steep for JTA. n WHEN IT first arranged for former Israel ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon to discuss the post-Annapolis situation, the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association had no inkling that US President George W. Bush would be visiting the region. As it happened, the IBCA function took place the day before Bush's arrival, and was therefore extremely timely. If the international community wants Israel to make concessions, Ayalon told the event, the same should be expected of the Palestinians. Noting that Israel has consistently made and been urged to make concessions to the Palestinians, Ayalon said: "We should receive the same commitments from the Palestinians as they ask from us. What are they asked to give up?" The whole process of negotiations is lopsided, Ayalon insisted. The formula is one of political concessions by Israel on territory, refugees and Jerusalem, whereas the Palestinians are asked to stop terror and incitement and to build institutions for governance. On the refugee issue, said Ayalon, Israel should receive a commitment that all Palestinian refugees will come only to a Palestinian state and not to the State of Israel. While Israel is ready to divide Jerusalem, he continued, the Palestinians are not, and want sovereignty over the Temple Mount. When Yasser Arafat and then prime minister Ehud Barak met at Camp David in 2000 Ayalon recalled, Barak kept offering to make concessions, but Arafat never made a counter offer. Israeli leaders, including Binyamin Netanyahu, successively made concessions even before Oslo, said Ayalon, but no concessions were forthcoming from the Arab world. Still, he attributed the impasse in negotiations in part to intransigence on both sides. "If we all concentrate on our own historic narratives, it's not a recipe for peace," he said, adding that Annapolis was important from the perspective of preventing further deterioration of the situation. "What President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice are trying to do is to keep things as they are without further escalation of the conflict," opined Ayalon. In Ayalon's view the conflict is not really about territory or natural resources or even religious sites. It's about a clash of cultures. Not all Arabs or Muslims are terrorists he said, "But all terrorists are Muslims who deny us our legitimacy and deny us the right to our own history." Ayalon does not think that the Israel-Palestine conflict is the cause of all the problems in the Middle East. "It has a big influence, but the cause is really the clash of civilizations," he stated. There are those in the US State Department who believe that the isolation of the US in the Arab world is due to the fact that America identifies with Israel, but it's really the other way around, he observed. "It's because Israel identifies with the US and the West." n IT IS a feather in the cap of almost every ambassador to have the president or prime minister of his or her country pay an official visit to the country in which the ambassador is serving. Some ambassadors never get to experience such an honor, but Polish Ambassador Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska has had the good fortune to have had both incumbent Lech Kaczynski, who visited last year, and another Lech, Poland's first democratically elected president Lech Walesa, who visited this week. In conversations here, Walesa implied that he no longer had the patience for politics, yet he is being proposed as a candidate for the European Union's new Council of the Wise. During his visit to Israel, he talked quite a lot about the unity of Europe, but was not too happy about what had happened in his own country with the Kaczynski twins at the helm. "There are families of quintuplets in Poland," he quipped. "Imagine what would happen to democracy if they all got into power." n WHILE ISRAEL is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Foreign Press Association is in the process of celebrating its 50th. On Friday, January 18, at 1 p.m., the FPA will open a Jubilee Photo Exhibition in the Sherover lobby of the Jerusalem Theater. Launched in 1957 by 31 reporters, the FPA today has more than 460 members - including television correspondents, radio journalists, stills photographers and print reporters from 32 countries. The first Israeli official invited to address the IPA was a young man with a lot of potential and promise by the name of Shimon Peres. Last year that same young man, now the president of the State of Israel, hosted the FPA at the start of its jubilee celebrations. Among the photographers whose work will be exhibited are Israel Prize laureate David Rubinger of Time magazine, Shlomo Arad of Newsweek, and Havakuk Levison and the late Andre Brutmann of Der Spiegel. Rubinger's and Brutmann's photos frequently appeared in The Jerusalem Post. n TAKING HIS new role of honorary consul of the Marshall Islands with the utmost seriousness, Ran Rahav and his wife Hila last Friday night entertained all of the Pacific Island permanent representatives to the United Nations at a traditional Sabbath dinner at their home in Savyon. The diplomats were brought to Israel by the American Jewish Committee and were accompanied by Ambassador Aaron Jacob, the Associate Director of the AJC's Office of Government and International Affairs, Washington DC. It goes without saying that the diplomatic delegation included Rina M. Tareo, Charge d'Affaires, permanent mission of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the UN. Others in the group were Mason F. Smith, Charge d'Affaires of the republic of Fiji; Ambassador Masao Nakayama of the Federated States of Micronesia; Ambassador Marlene Inemwin Moses of the Republic of Nauru; Ambassador Stuart Beck of the Republic of Palau together with his wife; Ambassador Fekitamoeloa 'Utoikamanu of the Kingdom of Tonga; and Eni Hunkin Faleomavaego from American Samoa, non-voting Speaker and Program Adviser to the US House of Representatives, with his wife Antonina Hinanui Hunkin, his daughter Temanuata Hunkin and his assistant Dave Richmond. Among the Israeli guests were Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his wife Nili; Housing and Construction Minister Zeev Boim and his wife Edna; Chairman of the Knesset Foreign affairs and Defense Committee Tzahi Hanegbi and his wife Randy; actress Gila Almagor and her husband Yaacov Agmon; Michael Ronen, who is Israel's non-resident ambassador to 12 countries in the Pacific; the Foreign Ministry's Chief of Protocol Eldan; and Ruth Kahana, the Foreign Ministry's deputy director general for Asia and the Pacific. Kiddush was recited by Ronen, and the meal itself, with the exception of the chopped liver, was more North African in content than East European, although both Ran and Hila Rahav are Ashkenazi. Barak warmly thanked the permanent representatives to the UN for their ongoing support for Israel. The sentiment was echoed by Boim and Hanegbi who each said that Israel deeply appreciated this support. In the course of conversation, Barak paid tribute to Hanegbi's mother, former ultra right-wing MK Geula Cohen, and recalled her work as the courageous Etzel broadcaster during the period of the British Mandate. Almagor praised Cohen's integrity while Boim said that her contribution to the establishment of the state could never be forgotten. Though now past 80, Cohen continues to broadcast and has a regular show on Israel Radio's Reshet Bet. n JERUSALEM POST columnist and deputy managing editor Caroline Glick is eagerly awaiting the release of her book 'The Shackled Warrior - Israel and the Islamic Jihad' which is due to hit the book stands in March. Published by Gefen, the book is a compilation of Glick's articles in The Jerusalem Post. n AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR James Larsen is leaving nothing to chance. Because mail deliveries often take much longer than they should in Israel, and because he has more than once had the experience of people receiving invitations after an event has already taken place, he has already sent out notices to the effect that the dedication of the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheba will take place on April 28. The park, designed to pay tribute to Australians who served in the Middle East during World Wars I and II, is the initiative of the Melbourne-based Pratt Foundation. The dedication ceremony is being coordinated by the Australian Government through the Department of Veterans' Affair. There will be high level Australian government representation at the dedication ceremony, though Larsen is not yet prepared to divulge if the Australian delegation will include Prime Minister Kevin Rudd or Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith. It is likely that Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon will attend, especially in view of the fact that the Israel Defense Forces will participate in the dedication ceremony. n MEN OF any age would be flattered to have hundreds of women standing on their seats to get a better look at them as they entered the room. It becomes even more flattering when you're more than 84 and about 1,000 women attending the World WIZO Conference scramble to get a close look at you. That's what happened to President Peres on Monday night. Peres arrived at the Tel Aviv Hilton on time, but was almost 15 minutes late getting into a banquet hall literally filled from wall-to-wall. In the lobby he encountered Rev. Kiriyama Sieyu, who had been patiently waiting with a large group of his followers. Formerly Tsutsumi Masuo, the frail 86-year-old founder of Agon Shu Buddhism is believed to act as an intermediary between his followers and the spiritual world, with a mission to save all mankind. Hilton General Manager Ronnie Fortes, who was on hand to greet Peres, introduced him to Rev. Seiyu, who had been sitting surrounded by his entourage. The two octogenarians obviously found a lot in common, given that the conversation lasted well beyond polite exchanges. A surprise awaited Peres, just before he delivered his address. There was a video of his granddaughter Maya, who attends a WIZO kindergarten, running towards the camera with a big smile on her face and crying "Saba! Saba!" Peres was visibly moved, but even more so when a live but very sleepy Maya was brought on stage. Peres told his audience that the difference between a progressive and a backwards society was the way in which it treats its women. When women have equal rights and a full share in nation building, that is a sign of a progressive society, he said. Peres left soon after concluding his address, and as he exited the ballroom, he encountered a group of young people who were all thrilled to be so close to the president. They whooped with joy and then took turns being photographed with him.-