Your Excellency, you’ve started your mission in Bucharest last year. How would you assess the time spent here?
Upon my arrival in Romania last autumn, I still had in mind the memories of my last mission here in the late 80s, and had the wrong impression it was going to be a very quiet post. I was even expecting to have time to finish the redaction of my PhD. But things turned to be very different. In fact the number of important events that took place during these few months is quite impressive. I had the honor to meet the President of Romania and his ministers, and welcomed in Bucharest the chairman of our Knesset (parliament). I accompanied the Romanian foreign minister in Israel and later president Iohannis effectuated an official visit in my country. I started to encourage more and more meetings at all levels and in different fields between Romanians and Israelis: academics, cultural, scientific and of course commercial. The tragedy of the Collective fire and its aftermath created a turmoil I didn’t expect. The need, first to reach out for the victims and send some of them to be treated in Israel, and then the reaction of the street and the political establishment were a challenge for someone that has just arrived in the country. I had to explain to Jerusalem what was happening, and at the same time recreate personal links with the newly appointed ministers.
What are the main achievements and accomplished projects so far, you are very proud of?
At the Embassy we have been organizing and sponsoring conferences and meetings doing our outmost to promote Israel in different fields. In the last months we have had the pleasure of enjoying the performances of Avishai Cohen and Amos Hoffman, The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra participated in the George Enescu Festival with Zubin Mehta, and we were present at the Sibiu Jazz festival. We joined Bucharest Jewish film festival. The BeerSheva Theatre presented its “Romeo and Juliet” interpretation in Craiova and in Ramnicu Valcea and this is but a part of our activities.
We have just been a part of Art Safari and had the visit of well renowned Israeli authors. Above all, I am very proud of the fact that Israel is going to be the guest of honor of Bookfest this coming June.
What are your plans for the remaining period from your mandate here?
As I will have the opportunity of being in office in Romania for several years, I hope to promote further development in bilateral relations between our two countries especially in the economic field. I have already met some of the authorities in charge as well as promoters to discuss the possibilities of collaboration in the fields of water, HLS, academic exchanges, communications, cyber security and much more. I visited different regions of the country to develop the cooperation in different domains.
I also feel a special link to the Jewish community of Romania and the accession of Romania to the chairmanship of IHRA this year is very important for us. We believe that teaching the lesson of the Holocaust is a duty and I hope that in the coming years we will succeed in transmitting the lessons of the past to the new generation.
I want to increase the understanding between the people – have more cultural cooperation, student exchanges, touristic relations. As for myself, I wish to get closer to the Romanian realities, I have been involved in Ovidiu-Ro activities and it is my intention, as part of our Independence Day celebrations, to make a donation to a Romanian organization dealing with social problems.
Before coming to Romania as Ambassador, you’ve worked here before, between 1988 and 1991 as counselor at the Israeli Embassy. How did you find Romania after 25 years?
Smiling. I must admit that the changes that occurred during these 25 years are amazing and I see the biggest transformation in the people. When I was here 25 years ago, I could never meet individuals and the people in the street seemed gloomy. Life was difficult, even for us, the foreigners, and the citizens looked sad. Now I realize how agreeable, friendly and pleasant the Romanians are. Coming back to Bucharest feels like looking through a distorting mirror – the places look familiar but nothing is the same. The abundance of cultural activities, the profusion of goods, the elegance of the young people, all these are a daily amazement for me, as I can compare to what used to be. When I look at the accomplishments of the 25 years I am impressed.
The bilateral relations between Romania and Israel have traditionally been a model of relations between two states, one reason for this being the human bond linking the two countries. What else do you believe that contributes to this excellent relationship?
Romania and Israel have full diplomatic relations since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and Romania was the only communist country that did not break its diplomatic relations with Israel .
The connection between the two countries is historic as a large Jewish community lived in Romania since the 15th century. A massive group of Romanian Jews immigrated to Israel after the Second World War, and is still an important community in the country. Their affinity with Romania plays a significant role in the links between the two countries. The tourist exchanges are impressive as many Israelis come to Romania, some of them returning to visit their birth places, and other to enjoy the beauty of the country, moreover, a large number of Romanians pilgrims visit Israel and the Holy places. In addition Romania and Israel share similar values and have common interests. The cooperation between the countries has grown stronger in many areas and in numerous occasions Romania showed its support for Israel’s positions within international forums and EU institutions. Romania’s access to NATO consolidated the military cooperation. Israeli investors come to Romania, and Romanian businessmen are in close contacts with their Israeli partners.
What can do Romania and Israel together to better protect the security and safety of their citizens in such a turbulent international environment dominated by a lot of threats and challenges: terrorism, cyber-terrorism, refugees crisis?
Romania and Israel are sharing mutual concerns as both countries are situated in an unstable surrounding. The cooperation between us in Homeland Security matters is solid, and Israel’s expertise is appreciated in Romania. But in the current situation, it is the whole area that must unite to confront the dangers of radicalization and terror attacks. Only through transfer of information, joint programs and cooperation, Europe and the western world will be able to find solutions to the crisis we are facing.
Are you pleased with the level of the Israeli investments in Romania? What should be done to increase the presence of Israeli investors and capital on this market?
The potential of the Romanian market for Israeli investor is obvious, yet we are not satisfied by the volume and amount of transaction taking place between the countries and we intend to remediate to that situation. We must remember that a framework agreement aimed at the promotion and enhancement of business ties between the two countries has been signed last year. This agreement encourages increased investment by both countries, as well as a network to organize different projects and joint-business ventures. Our commercial department is encouraging exchanges between the countries with the cooperation of the bilateral chamber of commerce and as the political authorities in both governments have expressed their interest to reach the objectives of all business partners we hope to optimize this potential.
Going to the troubled geographic region Israel belongs to, are there any chances, in your opinion, to resume the peace negotiations for the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
In the Jewish tradition we have a saying stating that “Since the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from prophets and given to fools and children”. My hair is grey and I do not want to be taken for a fool but I am an optimistic and I know that the only chance for the peoples of our region, for the children of our neighbors and our children is in Peace. And the only way to reach Peace is through negotiations and compromises. Europe has been at war for hundreds of years and has finally reached reconciliation. It took you centuries. You settled it between yourselves. I hope the good willing politicians of the world will have the sensibility to understand that their interventions are not always helping. Today our region is confronting much more dangerous problems, the ISIS and Syria crisis, the flow of refugees, the Iranian race to acquire nuclear capabilities which are as much threats to the stability of Europe and of the world. As for us, I wish our leaders will find a way to resolve our hostility, and educate our children to accept the other.