Israeli embassy opens in Dublin

 

THE first Israeli embassy in Ireland was officially opened in Dublin yesterday, 21 years after full diplomatic relations between the countries were established.

The ambassador, Mr Zvi Gabay, described the event as "a great historic occasion" before raising the Israeli flag outside the Pembroke Road premises in Ballsbridge for the first time. "Today Israel has a home in Ireland."

The opening ends a long standoff between Ireland and Israel. For many years Ireland was the only EU country not to have an Israeli embassy, and diplomatic relations were carried out through the Israeli embassy in London and the Irish embassy in Athens.

Attacks on Irish UNIFIL areas in south Lebanon by the Israeli backed militia there postponed a decision on a number of occasions. The Government finally announced its agreement to the opening of an embassy here in December 1993, and on the same day invited the Palestine Liberation Organisation to open an office.

Mr Gabay, a former head of the Middle East department of the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs, formally presented his letter of credence to the President, Mrs Robinson, in July 1994. He served in Cairo after the 1980 signing of the Camp David accords and has also been Israeli consul general in Sydney.

Mr Gabay said yesterday that his country now had 103 diplomatic missions in 78 countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, and would have missions shortly in Tunisia and Oman. It was particularly appropriate that an embassy should be opened this year, "the 3,000th anniversary of when King David established Jerusalem as our eternal capital".

"We hope to see soon an Irish flag flying over an Irish embassy in Israel," he went on. "The future of Irish/Israeli relations is a very promising one."

Ireland has no plans to open an embassy in Israel at this stage it is understood, mainly because of cost. If such a move were contemplated an embassy would go to Tel Aviv despite Israel's view that Jerusalem is its "eternal capital", because of Jerusalem's disputed status.

Some 60 people attended yesterday's ceremony including members of the Jewish community, Israelis working in Ireland, representatives of the Ireland Israel Friendship League and the Ireland/Israel Economic and Business Association.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Sean Dublin Bay Rockall Loftus, said the opening was a highlight of his year as Lord Mayor.