3 December 2022, Saturday, 4:25
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Former Israeli ambassador: “Echo of Soviet Union can still be heard in Belarus”


Belarus has many bureaucratic obstacles and not the best image in the West, former Israeli ambassador to Belarus Zeev Ben Arie thinks.

Zeev Ben Arie, former Israeli ambassador to Belarus, after his returning from Minsk told in an interview to IzRus portal why economic cooperation between the countries was so bad and whether Israeli businessmen had prospects in Belarus.

“We have normal and correct relations. We’d like to improve them, especially economic ones. I see Belarus as a partner with great opportunities,” Zeev Ben Aris said.

The politician, however, notes that these opportunities weren’t implemented because the Belarusian authorities control the economic center.

“There are centralization and governmental control over the economic sector. Israeli businessmen didn’t like the image of Belarus in the West, which is no the best. However, we have ties: delegations are coming, projects are being discussed, I noticed some progress at the end of my mission in Minsk, which I hope wil become evident this year. Some big Israeli companies became interested in projects in Belarus, in particular those ones in building and high tech sectors,” he explains.

Belarus’s close ties with Iran, the country announced destroying of Israel as its objective, can’t be positive for relations between Belarus and Israel.

“The countries are in different camps that obviously influence the relations – the cooperation in international organizations is limited. Besides, Belarus actively supports Syria and Iran. Of course, every country pursues its own policy... but close ties with Iran, the country announced destroying of Israel as its objective, can’t be positive for our relations. But I’d like to note wide cooperation in the so called public diplomacy and culture. The embassy in Minsk does a lot to present Israeli literature to the people of Belarus and establish intercultural ties. There is a big group of Belarus-born Israeli citizens in our country who have contacts with their former motherland, and this helps us in this sector,” Zeev Ben Arie told.

According to the politician, main obstacles of Israeli businessmen in Belarus are bureaucracy and fear of the unknown.

“The echo of the Soviet times can still be heard in Belarus, I mean fear of everything unknown, including Israeli business. There many bureaucratic red-tape, slowing business development. The Israeli people like to do everything quickly, they like to settle questions fast. This method doesn’t work in Belarus. Here we should be patient and pay much attention to ties with Belarus. Such countries as Hungary and Romania are considered to be more perspective for the Israeli business. Israeli businessmen are active in these counties, because they don’t pay so much attention to state aid as Belarus does at this stage,” Former ambassador of Israel to Belarus thinks.

Avigdor Liberman, possible head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, should give more attention to Belarus, the politician supposes.

“Well, he hardly needs my advice, at least, in this question –he knows Belarus well, he has visited it several times, he understands importance and opportunities of this country. The only thing he need is to pay more attention to Belarus. The Israel’s business develops fast in a new country, but it takes much time for it to start activity.

We are entering Belarus now, and we are in sharp need of state support at this stage. It concerns high technologies above of all. The Israeli people will find fine partners in high tech sphere in this country, because the republic understands importance of this economy sector and appreciate the experience of Israel. New ambassador to Minsk Eddi Shapira can facilitate this process. I find him an experienced and talented diplomat, who understands local realities,” Zeev Ben Arie noted.

Kharkov-born Zeev Ben Arie (Vladimir Flanchik) had been a pioneer of the Israeli Russian-language journalists before he choose a diplomatic career. He worked in Russian office of Kol Israel radio station, collaborated with a number of printed editions. He has worked as an ambassador in Minsk since December 2004, superseded in January by diplomat Eddi (Eduard) Shapira, born in Kishinev.

At the time, Ben Arie works for Eurasia-2 department (Central Asia and South Caucasus) in the Ministry of Foreign Affaires under Shemi Tsur.