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MENS: Israel Names New Australian Envoy

Israel Names New Australian Envoy

Middle East News Service

[ Middle east News Service comments: It was only on a matter of time before Israeli envoy Tamir was to be replaced after his racist comments in an interview with Haaretz. Both the Israeli media and the Australian Jewish News reported that many members of the Australian Jewish Community were furious with the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s decision to return Tamir in Australia.

The only question that remained then is who leaned on the AJN’s editor to soften Tamir’s image by, all of a sudden, reverting to the use of his nickname of Nati rather than his formal name of Naftali? A quick look through my file of hard-copy version of the AJN suggests that the change was simultaneous with Tamir’s disgrace. Why? It’s very common for Israelis to refer to politicians and other public identities by their nickname (even Shulamit Aloni refers to Arik rather than Ariel Sharon) but I am yet to see a single reference in the Israeli media to “Nati” Tamir. The change appears to have been conscious one as I have not been able to find a single to “Naftali”Tamir since he returned to Australia and there quite a few before his departure. Any information on this subject will be greatly appreciated – Sol Salbe.]


Israel names new Australian envoy

ISRAEL has named career diplomat Yuval Rotem as the new ambassador to Australia.

Rotem, a former consul-general in Los Angeles, will succeed Nati Tamir, whose tenure will be cut short following the diplomatic scandal over alleged race comments he made in October.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced Rotem's Canberra posting yesterday among 15 new positions to Israeli missions around the world.

The appointment, which is expected to commence in mid-2007, still requires the approval of both the Israeli Cabinet and the Australian Government.

Australia’s inclusion on the list follows a Foreign Ministry investigation into remarks Tamir made in an interview with the Israeli Ha’aretz newspaper, in which he allegedly referred to Asians as having “yellow skin and slanted eyes”, and Australia and Israel as the “white race”.

Following the investigation, Tamir returned to his post, with speculation rife that he would be replaced before the end of his three-year tenure, which was due to end at the end of 2007.

At the time, several Australian Jewish leaders reportedly lobbied the Foreign Ministry not to allow Tamir back to Australia. Tamir has repeatedly claimed his comments were taken out of context.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester welcomed Rotem’s appointment, praising the Foreign Ministry for appointing an envoy with such breadth and seniority of experience.

“Although [Australia is] a distant posting [from Israel], it’s an important one because Australia is such a key supporter of Israel throughout the world,” he told the AJN.

Chester also responded to the announcement by paying tribute to Tamir.

“I wish Nati well for the remainder of his term,” he said.

Rotem, 47, joined the diplomatic corps in 1985 and is the youngest career diplomat in the Israeli foreign service. His first overseas posting was as chief spokesman for Israel at the United Nations in 1989.

In 1995, then foreign minister Ehud Barak appointed Rotem as his senior policy adviser for the peace process. In 1996, he was appointed chief-of-staff to the foreign minister, serving both David Levy and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Earlier this month, the Israeli Embassy in Canberra also welcomed a new chargé d’affaires, Eli Yerushalmi, to replace former deputy Orna Sagiv, who returned to Israel.

Tamir, who previously served as ambassador to Finland and also served in various posts in Washington, Tokyo and Strasbourg, is also Israel's non-resident ambassador to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

He oversaw the rapprochement between Wellington and Jerusalem following the fallout from the 2004 “passport affair” and has since been accredited as non-resident ambassador to New Zealand.

Previously, Rotem worked as an aide to a US congressman and as a parliamentary aide in the Knesset. He is married with three children.

Also among the new postings, former Foreign Ministry director-general Ron Prosor, who visited Australia and New Zealand this year as a guest of the Jewish National Fund, was named as Israel’s new ambassador to the UK.


[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements]

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