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Israel, Ireland May in Time Exchange Resident Ambassadors

Israeli diplomats believe it is only a matter of time before Israel and Ireland exchange resident ambassadors. This view was strengthened during the four-day farewell visit here of Gideon Rafael, the outgoing Israeli Ambassador to Great Britain and Ireland. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Dublin and Jerusalem Dec. 12, 1974, Rafael has represented his country in the Irish Republic from the Israeli Embassy in London. He has made periodic visits to the Irish capital, however.

Asked by journalists here over the weekend if resident ambassadors might be exchanged, Rafael said there would be no impediment from the Israeli side. In his talks with Irish officials he repeatedly mentioned Israel’s willingness to open an embassy here. He is understood to have brought up that matter in his private talk with President Patrick Hillery and alluded to it at a luncheon tendered in his honor by the Irish Foreign Ministry.

Rafael noted on that occasion that although Israeli-Irish relations were formalized only two years ago, each country had begun to court the other much earlier at the United Nations where the Irish and Israeli delegations sat side-by-side and “held hands.” Now. Rafael observed, “the relationship is legalized but the young couple are still living with their in-laws in London and Berne,” a reference to the fact that the Irish Embassy in the Swiss capital is responsible for relations with Israel. A Foreign Ministry spokesman explained that costs had kept Ireland from opening embassies in many countries with which it had diplomatic relations.

Rafael gave a luncheon for the Irish Finance Minister, Ritchie Ryan. The latter congratulated the Israeli envoy for having pleased the Court of St. James without having run afoul of the government of Ireland. “Anyone who can do that deserves special praise,” he said. Rafael stressed in his remarks that the most important aspect of Israeli-Irish relations has been trade which reached eight million Pounds Sterling last year of which five million Pounds represented Israeli exports to this country. He said their trade relations were improved by Ireland’s entry into the European Common Market.

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