The central African state of Rwanda will open an embassy in Israel by early next year, its foreign minister announced.
Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told a press conference in Eaglewood, New Jersey on Friday — held shortly after Rwanda had been voted in as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council — that Rwanda is “going to open an embassy in Tel Aviv… in the next six months.”
Asked by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who was hosting the press event, whether Rwanda had considered opening its embassy in Jerusalem, she said her country needed “to act carefully” in advancing its support for Israel within the 54-state African Union, and that opening premises in Jerusalem might be counterproductive in that regard.
Boteach, who is known for his controversial books and is currently running for Congress, met Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Mushikiwabo a few weeks ago. The foreign minister noted that Boteach, in that meeting, stressed the importance of Rwanda opening an embassy, and, she said, her president “gave orders that this should now be done.
“Having witnessed firsthand the pain and the rebirth of the Rwandan people this summer, I was incredibly inspired by their warmth and their ability to come together as a unit in times of hardship, much in the way that the Jewish people have done for centuries,” Boteach said. “I whole-heartedly back President Kagame’s decision to open an embassy in Israel, and I am confident that it will foster even stronger relations between our people for decades to come.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry was taken by surprise by the announcement. ”We have no indication that Rwanda is intending to open an embassy in Israel,” ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. He stressed, however, that “Relations between the two countries are indeed good and warm.”
Boteach said Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, had also told him that Rwanda would indeed open a new embassy in Israel.
A prolific author and TV show host, Boteach, 45, is best known for tackling controversial topics in his books, such as “Kosher Sex” and most recently “Kosher Jesus.” After winning the Republican primaries for New Jersey’s 9th Congressional district, he is running for a seat in the US House of Representatives in the upcoming election.
Rwanda, a largely Christian nation of 12 million, has traditionally had good relations with Israel but has not opened a permanent mission. In 2008, Kagame visited Israel for the country’s 60th birthday. This past Thursday, Israel’s non-resident ambassador to Rwanda, Belaynesh Zevadia, presented her credentials to President Kagame.
“We share a lot in common with Rwanda and have gone through similar tragic events — the Holocaust and the genocide against the Tutsi,” Zevadia said, referring to the 1994 mass slaughter of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis at the hand of the Hutu majority. “This relationship has enabled us to share best practices on reconciliation and peace building. I am now looking forward to joint strategies in fostering education and agricultural advancement in Rwanda,” Zevadia said.