Embassy move to Jerusalem rejected as Philippine president set for Israel visit

Claims that President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem when he visits Israel in September have been rejected. (AP)
Updated 30 August 2018

Embassy move to Jerusalem rejected as Philippine president set for Israel visit

  • Duterte will begin a four-day state visit to Israel on Sept. 2
  • The Philippines leader will also visit Jordan from Sept. 6-8 following an invitation by King Abdullah

MANILA: Claims that President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem when he visits Israel in September have been rejected by the Philippines Foreign Affairs Department.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella told a press conference in Malacanang on Thursday that discussions on the embassy’s future are “definitely not on the agenda.”
Duterte will begin a four-day state visit to Israel on Sept. 2 at the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Philippines leader will also visit Jordan from Sept. 6-8 following an invitation by King Abdullah. Both visits will be a first by a sitting Philippine president.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said earlier that the firebrand leader’s trip to Israel “could be controversial.”
But Abella, reiterating the Duterte government’s stance that the Philippines is “a friend to all and enemy to none,” expressed confidence that the president’s trip will not affect the country’s relations with nations that fail to recognize Israel as a state.
Nevertheless, the government is “aware of certain sensitivities,” he said.
“We have multilateral relations and, as we pointed out, we are friends to all and enemies to none. This should not serve as an obstacle with our bilateral relationships with each of these nations,” Abella said.
“There are certain sensitivities that we are aware of considering we have other partners in the Middle East area ... But I believe we have reached a stage of maturity in our relations that they understand ... that we’re in relationship with other nations such as Israel. So, it is important that we strike a balance,” he said.
“I believe the president has proven in many ways that it is possible to have this kind of independent foreign policy while satisfying the demands and needs of each particular relation,” Abella said.
In a recent interview, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said: “We live in a modern and mature world. Israel knows that we’re very close to many Arab countries, we’re very close to Malaysia and Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, which has an Islamic majority. Similarly, these countries also know that we are friends with Israel.
“Are there any repercussions by just visiting? I say we’re all mature enough to know that we can be friends even with countries that have issues with each other. What is important is that we strengthen our bilateral relationship with all the countries in the world that want closer relationship with us.”
Asked if the issue of moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem will be discussed during the president’s trip, Abella replied: “It’s not a topic of discussion.”
The visit will strengthen ties, and enhance economic cooperation and sharing of expertise, he said.
Duterte will hold separate meetings with Netanyahu and Israel President Reuven Rivlin.
Abella said agreements are expected to be signed between the Philippines and Israel on the employment of Filipino caregivers, scientific cooperation and investment.
The government is seeking improvements in deployment procedures and the elimination of excessive placement fees on Filipino workers bound for Israel, he said.
This year marks the 81st anniversary of the “open door” policy of the Philippines under then President Manuel Quezon, who offered shelter to more than a thousand Jews escaping the Holocaust in Europe, and the 61st anniversary of formal bilateral ties between the Philippines and Israel.
Duterte is expected to discuss broadening cooperation in key areas with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Abella said that the visits will be a huge leap in the Philippines bilateral partnerships.
“Strengthening ties with these nations will promote economic growth, create new employment opportunities and enhance security,” he said.
An estimated 28,300 Filipinos now work in Israel, with 40,000 employed in Jordan.

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 26 min 12 sec ago

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

 Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

 Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

 The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

 Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

 Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

 The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

 “Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

 “So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

 Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

 The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

 Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

 Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

 She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

 One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

 There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

 The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”