Israel’s President Isaac Herzog provided cover for two regional colleagues on Tuesday in a statement designed to minimize the importance of a brief conversation with the prime ministers of Lebanon and Tunisia on Monday at the COP27 climate summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon and Prime Minister Najla Bouden of Tunisia appeared to be smiling and chatting with their Israeli colleague during a group photo.
“During the collective world leaders’ photograph at COP27… the president turned to the leaders standing next to him and introduced himself, as manners dictate,” Herzog’s office said in a communique sent to reporters.
“As for the Prime Minister of Tunisia and Prime Minister of Lebanon, who were standing nearby, when the leaders introduced themselves to each other, it was understood among them that they could not speak.
“That was the entire conversation between the three leaders,” Herzog’s office maintained, although a video clip of the incident appears to show a bit more.
Herzog took pains to minimize the interaction, saying in his statement, “The climate crisis threatens the very existence of the future we wish for our children. It transcends politics and geographic borders—and so must we.
“I say to all nations at COP27 and particularly to our neighbors, near and far: this state of emergency demands we work together.
“Let us leverage vital regional partnerships as a path towards inclusivity, stability, and prosperity, to form this shared, Renewable Middle East. Let us save the world God gave us, for we were all created in His image.”
The incident came several weeks after Israel and Lebanon signed a maritime border deal. The Lebanese leadership stated unequivocally at the time, however, that signing the agreement does not count as “normalization” with Israel.
H/T to Abu Ali Express