Yinam Cohen is the Minister Counselor and Head of Political Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Spain. In its department, as number two of the embassy, the meetings of the Israeli delegations of high level are generated, while it deals with the relations with the diplomatic corps accredited in Spain. It is in Cordoba these days on the occasion of the month of Israel in Andalusia and yesterday visited the facilities of CÓRDOBA Journal.
– What activities will develop in this city on the occasion of the month of Israel in Andalusia?
-The visit to Cordoba is part of a rather large project that we are doing the Israeli embassy in several cities of Andalusia: Almeria, Cordoba, Jaen, Seville and Granada. And the purpose is to approach the Israeli embassy to the Andalusians. In Córdoba we are celebrating a very interesting culinary encounter between one of our most famous chef, Victor Gloger, and one of the most famous Spanish and Cordovan chefs, Paco Morales, from the Noor restaurant, with a dialogue about Israeli and Spanish cuisine, Israeli has a very interesting heritage and convergence with the Spanish. And also in Cordoba I will give today a conference on Israel in the Middle East and some political meetings.
– What is intended with this cultural initiative?
-Andalusia is the most populated region or community in Spain and the most important, which has a very important political, economic and cultural importance in the country. Jewish history in Spain happened here in Andalusia. Much of our Israeli culture comes from the Sephardim, who have developed in Andalusia. Here in Cordoba we have the Synagogue, born Maimonides, one of the most important thinkers in Jewish history … We feel that we have many ties, that the Jewish people has a lot of history in Cordoba and Andalusia and now we want to develop the present and the future .
-How is the relationship of Israel with Cordoba, a city that cares and reforms its Synagogue and has a Judería that is World Heritage?
-Córdoba is today one of the key points in Israeli tourism in Spain, but I think it can reach a high point. The Israelis find in Spain one of the most interesting destinations in the world. Each year around 350,000 Israelis arrive in Spain, a figure that in Spanish and Andalusian terms is perhaps not so much because there is a lot of tourism, but for a country as small as Israel means a lot. It means that one in 20 Israelis normally arrive in Spain. They come for football, for the beaches, but most of all for the culture and for the history and the Jewish heritage. And which city more reflects the history and the Jewish heritage in Spain? Cordova. And that is why we want to establish and expand our ties and it is the work we are doing here.
“What do you think the Synagogue is going to have a visitor center?”
-I’m going to meet her and we think this project is very important. The Jewish people have a lot of history in Spain. And now many Israelis and Jews in the world are returning to their Sephardic roots, to the culture of the Ladino, the Jewish-Spanish language, which has had so much literary wealth. And by the way we are very grateful to the Government of Spain for having approved a law of Sephardic that allows the descendants of these to acquire their Spanish citizenship again.
-After 31 years, how are the bilateral relations Spain-Israel?
– Now that there is political stability in Spain allows us to work with much more energy. Spain is one of the 5 largest countries in the EU, it is the fourth economy within the Union, and for Israel it is a very important point of focus. And now there is a boom in contacts between the two governments. Next week we will have a very important parliamentary delegation, headed by the President of Amistad in our Parliament, who will come to know Congress and the Senate. And in the second half of the year, our President, Reuven Rivlin, who has been invited by His Majesty the King to visit him, wants to give a new approach to the history that unites us.
– He’s in charge of political affairs at the Israeli embassy, what’s troubling him at the moment?
-More than all we work in a positive agenda, in the bonds between the governments and there are many exchanges in subjects of immigration; We have a small economy but in technological matters we are in the international vanguard and the theme of innovation is of great interest to the Spanish Government. Also in cybersecurity, which is a growing threat and Israel and Spain can cooperate. In addition, next week the group Amistad Spain-Israel will be launched with Spanish deputies. However, there are some sectors in society and in Spanish politics that instead of discussing seek discriminatory cases and try to promote the boycott against Israel. But we are very happy that this is not common between the parties and the Spanish people and are quite marginal sectors.
-How does Israel live beyond the negative news that come to us?
-Israel is in the middle of the most turbulent place in the world right now, in the Middle East, with Syria in the North and Islamic states around. But Israel is at the same time the largest development and technological research center in the world outside of Silicon Valley in the United States. There are 300 multinationals of the largest in the world that have opened their centers of development and research in Israel by the human talent and academic level. We live in a very pluralistic and open society and we keep trying to reach peace and tranquility.
-With Trump’s arrival in the US government, how does it affect the peace process with the Palestinians?
“Direct negotiation between Israel and Palestine has been frozen for three years. And we need to talk to come to an agreement. Last week, Trump’s special envoy was in Israel for the Middle East peace process. President Trump can give a new impetus, perhaps a little different and fresh to what we have had in recent years. And it would be good if both Netanyahu and Abbas, who have been satisfied with this first visit, can start again direct negotiation and have the support of the new Administration in Washington. Today’s Middle East is not the one we’ve always known, not 5 years ago. It has changed by the rise of jihadism and the Islamic State and now there is an understanding by a common enemy. We do not have official diplomatic relations with these countries but there are already contacts of low profile, because the common things are more than the political differences. I am the father of three children and the only thing that worries me as a diplomat and father is that my children and the children of Palestinians and Israelis have a future of peace. We have to dialogue and make the concessions we have to make to reach a peace agreement. And now it is more possible than before.
“Politics has come to football and threatens to cloud the Spain-Israel party in Gijón.
– What worries us most about this match is the Spanish team, which is very good (laughs) and I think it’s going to be a very big challenge for our team. Sport is a sport and in politics we are open to any kind of dialogue with which we want to dialogue but not with whoever wants to boycott or deny Israel’s right to exist.