In a highly unusual move, an email sent by the office of Israel’s envoy to the European Union and NATO asked a Jewish communal organization to refer to him as “the Representative of the Jewish State of Israel,” Channel 10 news reported Monday.
Aharon Leshno-Yaar, a senior diplomat, attended a Rosh Hashanah event sponsored by the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, the report said. The following day, Leshno-Yaar’s office received an email from the group thanking the ambassador for his attendance. In response, the envoy’s office thanked the group, but asked that in future he be referred to as “the Representative of the Jewish State of Israel.”
Israeli diplomats represent the State of Israel, and it is unheard of for the word “Jewish” to be included in their title.
When Channel 10 asked the Foreign Ministry about the incident, the envoy at first denied it. When confronted with the email, Leshno-Yaar admitted it was authentic but denied the message came from him personally and said it was a private initiative of his secretary.
Shortly after being contacted by Channel 10, the secretary sent another email to the Jewish organization saying there had been a few errors in the previous email and asking them to ignore it.
Three senior ambassadors contacted by Channel 10 said it was very peculiar behavior and unheard of for an envoy to change the name of the country he represents.
The initial email sent from Leshno-Yaar’s office came a few days after a delegation of Israeli lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List met with senior European Union officials in Brussels, forcefully denouncing Israel’s recently passed Jewish nation-state law and charging the Israeli government with systematic discrimination against the country’s non-Jewish minority.
Arab Israelis and other non-Jewish minorities have vociferously protested the law, which they say turns them into second-class citizens. Many Jewish Israelis and some in the international community have also condemned the legislation. The Israeli government and supporters of the bill note that provisions for equal rights for all Israelis are enshrined in other existing legislation.