Ambassador Opher Aviran

… on German-Israeli relations and the rise of radical political movements

Mr. Opher Aviran has recently been appointed ambassador and coordinator for German affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel. We talked with him about the German-Israeli relations and challenges in both countries such as migration and the rise of radical political movements.  

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Mr. Aviran, you have been appointed the responsible person for German-Israeli relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel. What were you thinking the moment you have been offered that Job?

Ambassador Opher Aviran: It meant a lot to me. I just returned from the US where I was Consul General of Israel to the Southeast, not knowing what task would be next. Then this offer came and I was like “wow”. I felt very honoured – after the US, I am now dealing with Germany, the two most important partners of Israel.

In your speech you said: „A lot has to be done, a lot has already been done“. What are your plans regarding German-Israeli relations?

The sky is the limit. Youth exchange is really important. Generally, education is a major issue. Also, I see that right now migration from Middle Eastern countries is a topic in Germany. We were and are dealing with a major wave of immigration in the past. In the 90s, one million Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union arrived to Israel and our population grew by 20 percent. The people then were coming in positive mood, but still, the challenge of integrating them was an effort due to the size of this wave of immigration. I believe we can share our experience with Germany. Also we started professional and vocational training programmes which fostered the integration of the Jewish ultra-orthodox and especially the Muslim Bedouin’s communities into our society. This is also something where we can share our experiences about with Germany.

Recently “Pegida” – populist right-wing movement, to say the least, became a phenomenon in Germany. Does this worry you?

As the journalist Nadav Eyal pointed out, I think it is more than this. We are facing a tripartite problem. There are radical Islamists who are mainly killing their own brothers in faith in the Middle East, but now also attacking our western civlization in Europe and especially in Paris just a few days ago and killing hundreds of innocent people in France. Then, there is the extreme radical right and, confusingly, also the radical left. There is this strange coalition between those who claim to hold liberal ideas, but support countries and organizations like Iran and the Hamas, Iran’s terror arm, where gays and lesbians are persecuted.

Is there something you particularly liked when being in Germany?

I am mainly looking forward to the next time I will be there. This will be in the beginning of next year. I will travel to Berlin and Munich to visit our Embassy and Consulate General, and then, at the end of a long day of meetings, I‘ll change my business suit to something more casual and enjoy a bit of Berlin, or Munich’s nightlife.