Ambassador of Peru to Israel, the Honorary Mr. Salinas hosted Diplomacy.co.il at his residence in Hertzeliya and spoke about life in Israel, diplomatic activities and the peace process.
Q: What does it takes to be an effective diplomat?
A: First of all good morning, welcome to the embassy of Peru, make yourself at home. There are all sorts of different answers, but the basic thing is to have an interest in international affairs, if you are diplomat you need to be aware of certain basic facts wherever you are so your first job will be to really get to know the place you are working with, and of course prior to that you need to know your own country very well.
Diplomacy is about forming good ties between countries and strengthening friendship so one way to do it is being honest about all sorts of issues and you need to convey the proper image of your country.
There are many things a good diplomat needs to take care of. It is highly desirable that the diplomat speak the local language. Here I'm very handicapped because I have been here for a year and a half and I don't seem to understand Hebrew, maybe that will come with time, I will work on that.
Q: Do you think that strong communication is essential to the relations between the countries?
A: Like you have said, it's essential. And here is where I would like to congratulate you on your initiative because this project that you have decided to carry on with Dipomacy.co.il is a wonderful thing that all of us in the diplomatic community here in Israel are celebrating. I personally believe that even though there are all sorts of different sources for us to get news from, this was needed. Somewhere that you can rely not only on timely information but also information that is catered to the diplomatic community's needs, so thank you for that initiative.
Q: How do the Ambassadors contribute to the relations between the countries?
A: It used to be that it was mostly Ambassadors and their Embassies who were in charge of that responsibility because diplomacy is an official endeavor of states, but these days technology, in a way, allowed other means and ways to carry on with diplomacy.
Still, the diplomatic agent needs to be official because he or she is representing a country or entity. These diplomatic relations are coded from the Vienna convention of 1961, and it's clear that only official diplomatic agents from states are in charge of diplomacy; yet, I still agree that technology is allowing different ways of conducting diplomacy, and that is most welcomed because diplomacy today has another aspect which is called social diplomacy, which allows people to get in touch with others around the world, and technology helps diplomacy to widen the scope of diplomacy itself.
Q: Has your opinion about Israel changed since you began your post here?
A: Not essentially, but I have never been here before; so, prior to my arrival I did a lot of reading, and I have consulted a lot with my Peruvian colleagues in the ministry of foreign affairs in Peru who had the privilege of working in Israel and each one had a unique experience so it's very difficult from that kind of exercise to get your own idea, but as I have said, essentially I don't believe my view about Israel has changed but in details, definitely yes. I think it has to do with the enormous changes that has taken place in this country in the last 10-15 years because when you come from Latin America it's all happening too fast here, in Israel, so people are thinking that things are still here as they were 10 years ago and that's not true, you are creating every day a much more sophisticated country and society due to technology and your ability to move forwards, so yes, in details, I keep adjusting the image I have about Israel as a country practically every day but in generally no, I did my homework before coming.
Q: What do you think that the Israeli people and the people of Peru have in common?
A: It's amazing how close we are in different ways; to begin with, I believe that both of us, Israelis and Peruvians, cherish democracy. We are very proud in Peru of our political system. It's clear that after a long period in history when democracy wasn't given so granted in Latin America and least of all in Peru, now we are a very democratic country and we value this political stability that we have achieved, it's allowed us to progress in the economic field as well, and this is something I can see every day here, democracy is vibrant and it is even more interesting because it's not something you'll expect from the area, and of course everybody knows Israel is the democratic state in the middle east.
Q: How do the people in Peru see Israel today?
A: There is a very strong friendship amongst both states, Peruvians admire very much Israel and its people. There are many Israeli investors now who discover the economic potential of Peru and this is contributing to the development of our country in certain areas that are strategic for a healthy economic growth like irrigation. Peru is growing its industrial export power with the help of Israeli businesses and this has been going on for some years now, furthermore, in may next year, we will host Agritech Peru, it is an Israeli Agritech organization initiative and it's the first time they will come to south America and they have chosen Lima as their first experience because there is where agriculture is moving fastest in the export dimension.
If we'll go back to the beginning of my answer, friendship is quite spread among Peruvians when they think about Israel, was a member of the United Nations special committee to Palestine and Peru was amongst the countries who voted in favor of the United Nation's resolution which decided on the matter of the foundation of the state of Israel.
Q: What would you advise to the young people who want to follow your way and become a diplomat?
A: Well, they need to know what they will be getting in to. It's a lifetime commitment, you never stop learning and you never stop studying, so the young people looking forward to becoming diplomats need to know it is hard work. It is a very rewarding professional activity; one gets to know so many interesting countries and people but it means you will be spending a lot of time away from home, away from your family and friends. Well, you will be making new friends but it takes some adjusting.
Q: Anything in particular about Israel?
A: They will be among the lucky ones, I think this is one place a diplomat need to discover; so much is going on here and many things that are happening here has consequences around the world. I thinking about technology, politics, agriculture and more, so I think diplomats that are posted here are fortunate because they get a firsthand experience of one of the most interesting places in the world.
Q: What do you like the most about Israel?
A: I think I like everything about Israel. I am very happy here. I like the people very much, their warmth, they make foreigners feel at home. I think I can say that they are unique in so many ways. The weather is wonderful and the food as well. The history, there are so many places one needs to see when he or she comes here, and the religious experience is also adding something special.
Q: What do you want to wish to the Israeli people?
A: I wish for everybody in this country that very soon peace can be a reality here, it's the only thing missing. I think that it's not an impossible target. Yes, very courageous decisions have to be made by all the parties concerned, but that's not impossible, I'm sure that to achieve peace is in everyone's hearts in Israel.
(Conducted on 26 October, 2010)