Grapevine November 5, 2021: When Understanding Overrides Emotion

The current motto of diplomacy is “we have to learn to understand each other.” The wording may change slightly depending on where and when the expression is used and by whom, and of course subtle changes in meaning must be taken into account when used in different languages. But the underlying message is that unless we learn to think like the person with whom we are talking, there will be no progress. It does not mean capitulating or changing your mind or politics. What it means is knowing where the other person comes from, what their values ​​are, and how they differ from yours. If your interlocutor does the same, you have adequately prepared the ground for discussion.

This message was loud and clear in meetings this week by Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in question and answer sessions with students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and with EU ambassadors, NGO representatives and journalists. invited to a luncheon at the Vert Hotel in Jerusalem by the Council on Foreign Relations of Israel. . In both cases, Coveney had to defend his country and counter the Israeli perception of Ireland as anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli. While Israel speaks lip service to the legitimacy of the criticism, when the criticism actually occurs, Israel and many sections of Diaspora Jews immediately adopt the view that the critic is an anti-Semite and an anti-Zionist. Coveney, without dodging questions and with the eloquence for which the Irish are renowned, managed to surprise former Mossad chief, veteran diplomat and ICFR board member Efraim Halevy, who chaired the event, with his courage and frankness. Although he admits that some of his compatriots may not be well disposed towards Israel or towards Jews, this is not the policy of the government, parliament or Coveney himself. There are differences of opinion between Ireland and Israel on issues such as settlements, the Gaza conflicts and accountability, which are very emotional issues, he admitted, “but we must be allowed to have a debate without being accused of anti-Semitism or anti-Semitism. be anti-Israel. “A thorny point of disagreement is that Ireland considers illegal what it considers to be the Israeli occupation of the disputed territories. But this should not be interpreted, he insisted, as a criticism of the country or the people of Israel.” It is a criticism of government policy. It is not a criticism of the Jewish people or the interests of Israel. “

On the issue of occupation, someone at the ICFR event wanted to know why Israel is singled out by the UN, the EU and its member states when other countries are occupied. Coveney denied that Israel is the sole target of criticism in this regard, citing the Russian annexation of Crimea and the Turkish-occupied section of Cyprus as violations of international law.

On the issue of anti-Semitism, Coveney said Ireland is implementing legislation against hate speech and Holocaust denial. He also noted that Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin has spoken out in clear statements against anti-Semitism.

As he has done on previous visits, Coveney reiterated Ireland’s belief in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and was aware that some members of Israel’s coalition government disagree. “The problems must be expressed in bilateral relations,” he declared, emphasizing that “we may disagree, but we support Israel’s right to exist. We believe in compromise, not boycott. “

Flag of Ireland (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Looking ahead, Coveney said that Ireland and Israel will be needed more in an interconnected world. Ireland is currently a member of the UN Security Council, an honor presented to it once every 20 years. In the UN General Assembly, the seating arrangements are such that Ireland, Israel and Iran sit very close together, and Ireland sometimes has to act as a bridge between its UN neighbors.

Despite all the obstacles and based on the experience of his own country, Coveney believes that peace in the Middle East is possible, but warned that “there is no solution without security for all countries.”

Later that day, Coveney met with President Isaac Herzog, with whom he spoke on many topics, including Herzog’s family connections to Ireland. His father was born there and his grandfather served as chief rabbi.

In the evening, Herzog and Coveney participated in a Twitter exchange and each addressed complementary comments to the other.

■ NEXT WEEK Herzog will welcome Colombian President Iván Duque, who will make a state visit. In an election campaign speech in May 2018, Duque did not rule out the possibility of moving his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, saying he wanted to have the best possible relations with Israel, but in September he said he would not reverse the decision by his predecessor to officially recognize Palestine as a state. Most Latin American countries have recognized Palestine.

Colombia recognized Israel in 1949 and diplomatic relations were established in 1953.

In official statements, Colombia has declared its support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel within mutually agreed borders. Colombia considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal, but strongly condemns Palestinian terrorism and advocates for a lasting peace based on the two-state solution.

■ THE OPENING last Wednesday night of the Jerusalem Theater’s 50th anniversary celebrations was also a tribute to the city’s popular singer and native son, the late Benny Amdursky on what was touted as his 90th birthday. Amdursky’s partner from 1957 to 1994, (the year of Amdursky’s death) in a duo known as Dudayim, was Israel Gurion, who in 2009, began singing with Amdursky’s son Assaf, and continues to do so to this day. from today. The irony is that although November 2 is implanted in the Jewish psyche as the date of the Balfour Declaration, it also turned out to be the date of Gurion’s 86th birthday, and not the 90th anniversary of Amdursky’s birth. Amdursky was born on August 12, 1931. Although they both came from left-wing secular families, they were students at the Tachkemoni Zionist religious school, a transplant from Warsaw, Poland, which opened in Tel Aviv in 1905 and Jerusalem in 1909..

■ November 2 was also the date that Labor Party ministers and deputies, past and present, along with hundreds of other Labor Party members, gathered in Tel Aviv to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the assassination of the first Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Among them were current Labor leader and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli, Dalia Rabin, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, and former Finance Minister Avraham Baiga Shochat. Michaeli spoke of Rabin’s commitment to Israel’s security on the understanding that ensuring security requires diplomatic agreements. Shochat, who served in the Rabin government, warned that society has not learned its lesson from Rabin’s assassination, and there is still a danger in Israel today that a public servant could be killed for doing his job.

■ AFTER LOWERING in May this year after 10 years as executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies, Major General (Retired) Amos Yadlin will fill the void left by the newly appointed ambassador to the United States Brigadier General . (retired) Michael Herzog as president of the ELNET Forum for Strategic Dialogue. ELNET, the European Leadership Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening relations between Israel and Europe, this week hosted a delegation of 11 members of the European Parliament, representing four political groups and eight countries. The delegation was led by the Spanish Antonio López-Isturiz White, who chairs the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel.

Yadlin, who is internationally recognized as an expert in defense, security, intelligence, and foreign policy, is involved with several other organizations and institutions that deal with national security and related issues.

Prior to his new role, Yadlin was ELNET’s Senior Advisor.

“Europe is a major player in international affairs and a key partner of the United States in leading the free world,” Yadlin said, adding, “Europe can play an important role in addressing critical challenges facing Israel, such as the Iran’s nuclear program, the global wave of anti-Semitism and promotion of normalization between Israel and Arab countries. After the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, the strengthening of alliances with key European countries has an increasing strategic importance for the Israel’s national security ”.

■ ELNET-Israel Executive Director Shai Bazak said he was very happy to welcome Yadlin on board, something he sees as a significant step for ELNET in its efforts to engage in high-level strategic discussions between Europe and Israel, beyond the limitations of formal intergovernmental policies. relations.

■ JIMENA, the California-based organization of indigenous Jews from the Middle East and North Africa that preserves and disseminates the history and traditions of the Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa, is working in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs , Hillel International, CAMERA on campus, Moishe House, OneTable, JewishLearningWorks and StandWithUs to organize Mizrahi Heritage Month, honoring the region’s forgotten refugees with stories, traditions and history of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews. On June 23, 2014, the Government of Israel adopted a law designating November 30 as the annual national day to commemorate the approximately one million Jewish refugees who were displaced from Arab countries and Iran during the 20th century. In 2015, JIMENA took a much larger step by launching Mizrahi Remembrance Month in the United States during the month of November.

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