Saturday, February 24, 2024

Navigating Challenges – Ambassador Modi Ephraim on Israel-Netherlands Relations

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Diplomat Magazine
Diplomat Magazine
DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands. Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. "Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions." Dr. Mayelinne De Lara, Publisher

Embarking on an insightful dialogue with Ambassador Modi Ephraim, with a focus on recent events, the Ambassador shares his perspectives on the response of the Dutch government and people, the resilience of the Jewish community, and the potential avenues for strengthened collaboration in the face of challenges.

DM – In light of the recent unprecedented attack from Hamas, how would you describe the response of the people of the Netherlands and the Dutch government?

Immediately after the Hamas attack, I was met by an outpour of support. Solidarity events organized by people of all sorts of walks and religions, demonstrations for Israel, and the raising of the Israeli flag by countless people who were shocked by the brutal attack on innocent Israelis by Hamas terrorists on October 7th.

Following the attack, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte showed solidarity with Israel by raising the flag in front of his office and he was clear in his stance that Israel has the right to self-defense. There was a moment of silence in Parliament to honor the victims of the brutal attack that took place on October 7th which I was honored to attend, and I received messages of solidarity and support from countless Parliamentarians.

In Israel, I accompanied the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs of Hanke Bruins Slot in a visit to Kfar Aza, one of the villages that was brutally attacked by Hamas terrorists on October 7th. The devastation the minister saw and the stories she heard made a big impact on her. I think anyone who bears witness to the atrocities, understands that the Hamas terror organization needs to be destroyed.

The Prime Minister made multiple visits to Israel and took ample time to meet with the family of Ofir Engel, an Israeli boy with also Dutch nationality who was abducted by Hamas terrorists to Gaza. After the meeting, I spoke with Ofir’s grandfather and he was so appreciative of the kindness and support PM Rutte showed.

In the Netherlands we have seen many demonstrations and solidarity actions, demanding the release of all hostages. Because of his Dutch background, there was particular attention for Ofir, and we are all so happy that he is now released and back with his loved ones. I appreciate the role of the Dutch government and all citizens who called for the release of him and all other hostages.

There are still 137 hostages kept by terrorists in Gaza. It is important that everyone continues to ask attention for this urgent matter, and I am appreciative to see that demonstrations and creative actions continue to be organized to shine a light on the plight of the hostages.

DM – Given the increase in anti-Semitic incidents you mentioned earlier, how has the Jewish local community in the Netherlands responded to the recent events?

There is great concern about the alarming increase of 818% of anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands. I find it dreadful that 80 years after the Holocaust, some people in the Netherlands have to hide the mezuza on their door or the yarmulke on their head out of fear. We work with the leadership of the Jewish community, the Dutch government and Parliament to ensure that Jewish life can continue. It is appalling that Jewish events are being cancelled and that Jewish schools had to close because of safety concerns. Just like any other people, the Jewish community must be able to live safely and freely in the Netherlands.

DM – As the Ambassador, how do you see the role of the Dutch government in fostering stronger ties and cooperation between Israel and the Netherlands during this challenging time?

In 2024 we mark 75 years of bilateral ties between Israel and the Netherlands. A diamond jubilee. Throughout these years our two countries have enjoyed a close friendship and ever-growing trade, as we continuously work together in various fields to enhance cooperation. We cherish our shared values that serve as a basis to this close friendship.

We appreciate the friendship of the Dutch government in the past few months since the brutal October 7th attack. As I mentioned earlier, PM Rutte made clear that Israel has the right to self-defense. The role of the Dutch government in getting hostages released, including Ofir Engel, cannot be underestimated and we are very grateful.

To ensure the eradication of the Hamas terror organization, it is important that this is part of the international agenda. Just like an international coalition was formed to fight Islamic State, the same must be done against Hamas to ensure that their terror will not reach Europe.

DM – In your experience as Israel’s top representative in The Hague, how has the recent situation impacted people-to-people exchanges, especially in the field or arts, between Israel and the Netherlands?

In the many demonstrations and actions in support of Israel, artists use their talents to ask attention. For example, recently in Amsterdam I attended the making of a painting on a wall by Israeli graffiti artist Benzi Brofman. His artwork shines light on sexual war violence against women and calls to speak up for our sisters. Brutal rapes were broadcast live by Hamas on social media and the hostage women experienced terrible things. This deserves more attention, and I am grateful for the efforts by Brofman and other artists who use their art as a wake-up call.

At the same time, we also see demonstrations that show support for the Hamas terror. Anti-Semitic chants are being shouted and the state of Israel is being denied the right to exist. It is important that we stand against terror and those who seek the destruction of the Jewish state.

DM – Looking forward, what are your expectations or hopes regarding the ongoing collaboration between Israel and the Netherlands, considering the recent events?

This month we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. Both serve as a symbol of optimism in dark times.  I am optimistic that we will have victory in the war against terror and that we will have peace in the region. We will continue to grow ties with our neighbors, and together with the Netherlands we can grow multilateral projects that are of benefit to Israel, its neighbors and the Netherlands. 

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