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Israel in Their Hearts: the Jewish State’s Honorary Consuls

January 21, 2015
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The Jewish state’s honorary consuls
Haim Zach/mfa.gov.il
They are the long arm of Israeli diplomacy, and they aren’t even Israeli citizens. They help foster strong relations and open doors that would otherwise be shut. They are motivated by love for Israel, and, no, they receive no monetary compensation. In fact, they invest much of their own time and money to fulfill their important diplomatic mission.

One of the honorary consuls is Roberto Nelkenbau of Bolivia, which severed all diplomatic ties to Israel in 2009. Following the summer’s Gaza war, the Bolivian government decided to punish Israel by canceling a 1972 agreement that exempted Israeli visitors from obtaining a visa before arriving. Nelkenbau quietly negotiated with his government on Israel’s behalf, ultimately securing an understanding whereby Israelis could continue to travel to Bolivia and pay at the border for a temporary visa.

Also like Nelkenbau, many of the honorary consuls are from nations in which Israel has no embassy or official diplomatic representation. These consuls, in effect, serve as Israel’s ambassadors. They raise the Israeli flag with pride at their residences, the addresses of which are often used by the Israeli government for all matters pertaining to government or local media.

One of the longest-serving honorary consuls is Benny Gilbert of Barbados. Despite Barbados’ small size, Gilbert has been able to play an important role in Israel’s global diplomacy. Any time there is an important vote regarding Israel at the UN, the Jewish state scrambles to find nations willing to vote on its side. More than once, Gilbert’s intervention has resulted in Barbados abstaining from votes on important anti-Israel resolutions.

Fredrik Ekholm is one of the newer honorary consuls. He represents Israel in the city of Vasa, Finland. As a devout Christian, Ekholm is constantly on the lookout for anti-Israel boycotts, which he and a group of like-minded Christians immediately seek to counter by promoting the boycotted Israeli goods.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the honorary consuls “an important part of Israel’s diplomatic ‘Iron Dome,'” referencing the anti-missile system that saved so many lives during the Gaza war.

Source: Excerpt of article by Yossi Aloni, Israel Today

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