Israel’s PM, president look forward to Duterte visit

Both the prime minister and president of Israel are anticipating the historic trip of President Rodrigo Duterte to their country, which is expected to further bolster Philippine-Israeli ties, Israel’s new ambassador to the Philippines said.

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“The upcoming historic visit of President Duterte to Israel will enable both our countries to expand and strengthen our excellent relations to many more fields. President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are looking forward to meeting President Duterte in Israel,” Ambassador Rafael Harpaz said in a statement late Friday.

UPDATE: Duterte leaves for ‘landmark’ trip to Israel, Jordan

“Israel and the Philippines share an extensive and warm relationship in many areas, including economic and trade relations, security cooperation, agriculture, development assistance, and tourism,” he added.

Duterte on Friday accepted the credentials of Harpaz during the presentation of credentials at Malacañan Palace. After the ceremony, Duterte and the envoy exchanged views on how to further strengthen Philippine-Israeli relations.

Expected to be signed between the Philippines and Israel during the Chief Executive’s trip are a memorandum of agreement on the employment of Filipino caregivers; a memorandum of understanding on scientific cooperation; and a memorandum of understanding between the Board of Investments and Invest in Israel — a one-stop shop for potential investors.

Harpaz said Philippine-Israeli relations stand on the “noble deed” of the Philippines through the late president Manuel Quezon’s “Open Door policy” that saved 1,300 Jewish people from the Holocaust.

“Israel is eternally thankful to the gracious deed of the Philippines to save Jewish lives,” he said. “We are also appreciative to the approximately 30,000 Filipinos who are working as caregivers to many Israelis in need.”

He also expressed appreciation to the thousands of Filipino professionals, who participate in development programs in Israel and in the Philippines through MASHAV, Israel’s international agency for development cooperation.

The envoy further noted the growing Philippine-Israeli ties on education, with more than 600 Filipino students from 29 state universities and colleges participating in the 11-month internship in modern agriculture in Israel every year.

Harpaz arrived in the Philippines last August 26. Prior to his designation as Israel’s ambassador to the Philippines, he had served as director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Central Asia and Caucasus Department since December 2015.

He also served as Israel’s ambassador to Azerbaijan (2012-2015), director of the Public Affairs Department at the Embassy of Israel in Washington DC (2005-2009), deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Israel in Stockholm, Sweden (1999-2003), Bern, Switzerland (1993-1997), and Abidjan, Ivory Coast (1991-1993).

Harpaz succeeds Effie Ben Matityau, who ended his tour of duty last August 26. (PNA)

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