Referencing the December 2017 UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem, and the controversy that prompted Poland’s hard-line Holocaust related legislation, President Reuven Rivlin twice insisted on Thursday that politicians should not be allowed to distort the facts of history. He also declared that Israel’s neighbors should learn not to use religion to create conflict, “because Israel has no war with Islam.”
Rivlin was speaking at ceremonies in which five new ambassadors presented their credentials.
Speaking to Chilean ambassador Rodrigo Fernando Gaete – whose country with its Catholic majority voted in favor of the UN resolution that rendered the United States’ unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel "null and void" – Rivlin gently chided him by stating that no one can deny the historic connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish people.
“History is history even though some international organizations change history for political convenience,” said Rivlin.
Whereas US President Donald Trump popularized the expression "fake news," Rivlin calls the distortions of history "forged facts" and remained adamant that UNESCO cannot change the facts of history.
On the other hand, well aware of the large Palestinian population in Chile known in Spanish as los Turcos, Rivlin told Gaete that Israel wants to live in peace and harmony with all her neighbors, and that Chile can help to facilitate this.
Rivlin injected a dose of humor into the conversation when he noticed that both he and Gaete were wearing the Chilean national tie. Rivlin has been to Chile twice and received the tie on one of his visits. He had chosen another tie when getting ready in the morning, he said, but his wife had told him that he should wear the Chilean tie. Just another version of the ties that bind.
Marek Magierowski, Poland’s new ambassador to Israel, had a long and distinguished career in journalism, serving for a year and a half as director of the press office of the President of Poland before he went into politics, and was very quickly appointed undersecretary for state, a position that he held for barely a year before he was nominated as Poland’s ambassador to Israel.
But during that year, he was very influential in the government’s decision making process, a factor that Rivlin deemed useful in the dispute that Israel has with Poland on matters of Holocaust history. He was confident that Magierowski can help solve a lot of problems. “We have differences of opinion and it is important that we discuss them,” said Rivlin. “We are not allowing politicians to be involved in creating ‘facts.'" Rivlin and Magierowski concurred that despite the dispute, the many levels of strong cooperation between Israel and Poland have not been affected. “As much as we have a past,” said Rivlin, “we have a future that is important to the free world and to the Jewish People.”
Rivlin emphasized the importance of Israel’s relationship with Poland, which he said was not the same as that with other countries. Building on the symbiotic history of Jews and Poles, Magierowski said: “We can open a new chapter in our relationship despite our differences, because differences exist in every family.”
Rivlin told Said Rustamov, the ambassador of Uzbekistan, that Israel had been watching the development of his country with great admiration, and was also grateful for the shelter which Uzbekistan had provided for Jews fleeing from the Nazis.
Wol Mayar Ariec, who is the second ambassador from South Sudan to serve in Israel, came to the President’s Residence with his wife, his daughter and his three sons, two of who are football players, a factor that immediately drew Rivlin’s attention. Ariec said that he was under the impression that Rivlin had also been a player in his time. Rivlin said he hadn’t been good enough to play professionally so he became manager of Jerusalem’s Beitar football team. The ambassador’s children are studying in London, but Rivlin assured them that they could also study in English in Israel.
South Sudan’s 12.23 million people are very Bible conscious, and for Ariec it is a great honor to represent his country in the Holy Land. South Sudan is “a true friend of Israel” he told the president, adding that it’s probably the only country in the world in which every person would be proud to hold up an Israeli flag.
Eros Gasperoni, the ambassador of San Marino and the last of the five ambassadors, came with his wife and young son, who captured not only the president’s heart, but brought smiles to the faces of everyone present. Gasperoni is also accredited to Egypt, but is a non-resident ambassador to both countries working out of his own country and traveling abroad when necessary. His appointment is important he said, because he is San Marino’s first career diplomat to be appointed to Israel. Non-resident ambassadors are usually political appointments, and the fact that a professional has been appointed is a sign of the extent to which San Marino wishes to enhance its ties with Israel.
Today San Marino is 97% Catholic, and its Jewish community is tiny. But Rivlin recalled that the mountain micro-state provided a haven for thousands of Jews seeking shelter from Nazi oppression, and centuries earlier had provided refuge for the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. Rivlin told Gasperoni that he would like to see San Marino establish an embassy in Jerusalem, but if not Jerusalem, Tel Aviv would do.