Grapevine: Conspicuously absent

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

President Reuven rivlin and Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely at a Rosh Hashana event for diplomats  (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven rivlin and Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely at a Rosh Hashana event for diplomats
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Is there such a thing as a unilateral peace treaty? It would seem so, from the joint conference program of the Institute for National Security Studies and Yad Ben Zvi. The conference marked the 25th anniversary of the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. The title of the conference was “Between Jerusalem and Amman.” There were well-known figures among the close to 20 speakers, among them Oded Eran, Efraim Halevy, Shimon Shamir and Elyakim Rubinstein, but there were no Jordanians listed – not even the ambassador of Jordan Ghassan Majali, who when he presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin in November, 2018, was reminded by the president that the 25th anniversary of the peace treaty between their two countries would be celebrated this year.
■ THE ANNUAL exodus to Uman in Ukraine, the burial place of the great Rabbi Nachman of Breslov has already begun and will take on special momentum from the wee hours of Sunday morning, when hundreds, possibly thousands, of haredi men will leave their wives and children in Israel to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Uman. There’s a certain irony in that, given that 220 years ago, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Nachman landed in Haifa, where he was well received, and later went on to meet the religious communities of Tiberias and Safed before returning to Ukraine.
Because Rabbi Nachman is such an important figure in Jewish history, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other prominent Israelis have asked the authorities in Ukraine to permit the transfer of his remains to Israel. But just like the Lithuanians will not permit the transfer of the remains of the Gaon of Vilna, the Ukrainians will not give the green light to transferring the remains of Rabbi Nachman. Each rabbi, in his own way, is the goose that laid the golden egg. Descendants of Lithuanian Jews flock to Vilnius to the Gaon’s grave, and hasidim and non-hasidim go to Uman for a spiritually uplifting experience. In both cases, they bring millions of tourist dollars to each country – earnings that would be lost of the remains were transferred.
JEWS ARE not the only Israelis who will be in Uman over Rosh Hashanah. Ayman Ibrahim, an Israeli Arab from Abu Gosh, went to Uman as part of a special team of non-Jewish volunteers from United Hatzalah who will provide medical services and will otherwise assist in performing tasks on Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah that religiously observant Jews are unable to do.
■ AN OVERCROWDED schedule last year precluded President Rivlin from hosting the traditional pre-Rosh Hashanah reception of the President of Israel for heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Israel.
This year, despite the political crisis in which he has tried to avert a third round of elections by bringing the leaders of the two major parties together, and finally giving the mandate to Netanyahu, Rivlin on Wednesday morning hosted an apples, pomegranates and honey reception for members of the diplomatic corps, attended by most of the ambassadors stationed in Israel including Ukraine’s ambassador Hennadiy Nadolenko, who is dean of the Diplomatic Corps. Also present were honorary consuls who represent countries that do not have embassies in Israel but do have diplomatic relations with Israel.
On both sides of the street outside the President’s Residence, diplomatic cars with white CD number plates were double-parked and lined up bumper to bumper.
Despite the occasion, neither Rivlin nor Nadolenko could refrain from mention of the elections, which each hailed as a triumph for democracy, but which Rivlin noted also highlighted the divisions in Israeli society that he insisted must be healed.
While proud that the elections were a demonstration of a vibrant democracy. Rivlin declared that divisions between the Arab, religious and secular sectors must be healed in order to build a nation state of shared values and shared vision.
He reiterated his belief that in order for this to eventuate, Israel must have as broad as possible a government coalition with all sectors of Israeli society taken into account if the new government wants to build a thriving democratic and Jewish state.
Both Rivlin and Nadolenko voiced wishes for peace safety and security in Israel the region and the world.
Rivlin also spoke of the missing soldiers and civilians Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, being held by Hamas in Gaza and suggested that the governments represented by the ambassadors could help in their release and repatriation to Israel.
In the absence of Foreign Minister Israel Katz, who was attending the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Foreign Ministry was represented by Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely, as well as by senior Foreign Ministry personnel. In New York, Katz and his wife Ronit were photographed with US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania at a reception held at the UN for visiting government leaders.
Among the many ambassadors and honorary consuls in attendance at Rivlin’s reception were those of Russia, Egypt and Jordan. Conspicuously absent was US ambassador David Friedman.
■ ANOTHER DIPLOMATIC exodus is in progress. After several delays in his departure, India’s ambassador Pavan Kapoor will be going home for four weeks this weekend, after which he will take up his posting as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Kapoor was among the many ambassadors who joined Rivlin in toasting the New Year, and stayed behind to bid the president a personal farewell.
He will be succeeded by Sanjeev Kumar Singla, a veteran diplomat, who has been with the Indian Foreign Service for more than 20 years, and for the past five years has served as private secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In addition to Kapoor, Penprapa Vongkovit, the ambassador of Thailand will be completing her tenure next week.
Also due to leave some time in October is the urbane, friendly and extremely popular ambassador of Kazakhstan Doulat Kuanyshev, who will be followed soon after by Austrian ambassador Martin Weiss, who is moving to Washington to represent his country in the US.
■ LABOR-GESHER leader Amir Peretz has repeatedly stated that he will not sit in the same government with Benjamin Netanyahu, but he obviously has nothing against other right wingers, as evidenced by his warm greeting this week to Yemini leader Ayelet Shaked at the President’s Residence. Peretz and his entourage entered the President’s Residence just as Shaked and her people were preparing to leave. The firm handshake between Peretz and Shaked indicated that politics are politics and people are people.
■ WHETHER ONE wants to or not, it is almost impossible to escape the impact or lack of it with the conclusion of the second round of elections to the Knesset.
At the Rosh Hashanah toast that he hosted, Gazit Globe founder and CEO Haim Katzman said that there were no winners and no losers, adding that what Israel needs for the coming year is greater camaraderie and unity, and less polarization. He wished his guests a year of peace and health and urged all of them to aim for being a light unto the nations. He also announced that the Gazit Globe Group has great plans for the future and that there will be a series of pleasant developments in the year ahead.
■ REGARDLESS OF whether or not Netanyahu succeeds in forming a new government, the inauguration of the new Knesset will take place on Thursday, October 3 at 4 p.m. which the public can view on the Knesset Channel.
A ceremony in honor of President Rivlin will take place in the Weil Courtyard of the Knesset at 3.15 p.m. and this, too, will be broadcast on the Knesset Channel.
During consultations with party delegations this week, Rivlin for the most part exercised commendable statesmanship, but could not refrain here and there from his bad habit of interrupting his interlocutors in mid-sentence and speaking much louder than they did. This happened most obviously with Miri Regev and Ze’ev Elkin, who were in the Likud delegation, and Mansour Abbas, who was in the delegation of the United Arab List. All three spoke quietly, politely and respectfully, but Rivlin barely allowed them to complete a sentence. However, he was all ears with the Labor-Gesher and Democratic Union delegations and even lamented the fact that Issawi Frej, who had been re-elected to Meretz in April, did not win a Knesset seat in September. Frej served as an important bridge between the Arab and Jewish sectors, said Rivlin.
■ AMONG THE second-generation MKs who will be taking their seats in the new Knesset are Yair Lapid, Meir Porush, Omer Bar Lev, Orly Levy-Abekasis and Tzachi Hanegbi, who is also one of the four most veteran MKs, having first been elected to the Knesset in 1988, as were Netanyahu, Moshe Gafni and Amir Peretz. Hanegbi was director of the Prime Minister’s office during the Peres-Shamir National Unity Government, moving with Shamir from the Foreign Ministry to the Prime Minister’s office. Given his age of 62, if he stays in politics, Hanegbi may possibly equal or even pass the record set by Shimon Peres, who served in the Knesset from November 1959 to June 2007. Longevity is in his genes. His mother, former MK Geulah Cohen, is 93.