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On Eritrea’s Refusal To Welcome an Israeli Ambassador

On Eritrea’s Refusal To Welcome an Israeli Ambassador

Ma’ariv, Israel, July 14

Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recently announced his decision to shut down the Israeli Embassy in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and disperse its employees. This is because Eritrea has been delaying the arrival of the Israeli ambassador for almost two years. The prime minister’s announcement seems to have been made in haste and anger. The story raises a lot of questions and also raises an eyebrow. Without speculating as to why this happened, let’s start with the facts: The Israeli government appointed a new ambassador to Eritrea in July 2020. As usual, it officially notified the authorities there and asked, also as per usual, for consent so that the new ambassador could travel to Asmara and start working. Since then, the Eritrean authorities haven’t approved Israel’s request. Without formal permission, the ambassador can’t officially travel to the country and begin his post. This is a real deviation from diplomatic protocol. Asmara has a right to postpone the appointment. But what’s strange is its refusal to provide any satisfactory explanation. That’s simply unacceptable. How did Israel allow this anomaly to last for two years? Giving consent is usually a matter of several weeks, not years. Ostensibly, if there are no ties and the Eritreans are delaying the approval of our ambassador, we have nothing to do there. But again: Why drag feet for two years without an appropriate response on our part? We will probably be left with no plausible explanation. And now for the speculations. Why does Eritrea behave the way it does? The Red Sea region is familiar to me from the time I served as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt. Based on my conversations with those familiar with the topic, it seems as if the current Eritrean president doesn’t want us in his country. Others claim it’s all because of our rapprochement with Sudan. As stated, all these are speculations, and even if they are all true, there is still no justification for Asmara not giving consent to the appointment of the ambassador. And one more thought: Diplomatic relations between countries are based on the principle of reciprocity. What is the benefit of Israel not having an official representation in Eritrea while Eritrea has an active embassy in Israel? This creates an unwanted imbalance. If a decision has finally been made to shut down the embassy in Asmara, the principle of reciprocity must be applied, and the Eritrean ambassador must be asked to leave Israel. They must understand that we’re serious. –Yitzhak Levanon (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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