In an effort to combat growing anti-Israel sentiments in Norway, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has appointed a Druze Arab poet as ambassador to Oslo and named an Arab career diplomat as his deputy.
Naim Araidi, 62, a former lecturer at Bar Ilan and Haifa universities, confirmed his appointment on Israel Radio’s Arabic service on Wednesday, The Jewish Chronicle reported.
Araidi will be joined by George Deek, a Christian Arab from Yaffo who is currently deputy ambassador to Nigeria.
"It will help us greatly that the Israeli embassy is composed of all communities and religions as a reflection of real co-existence between Arabs and Jews in Israel," Araidi said.
He added that the diverse team comprised "a beautiful picture, putting forward the civilised, democratic face of Israel."
"I personally go with a cultural and literary mission which will have a big role in strengthening relations between Israel and Norway," Araidi said.
Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Paul Hirschson played down the significance of the two Arabs being sent to Oslo, saying that there is a shortage of Arab representation in the ministry.
"This is nothing special. A citizen is a citizen," he said. "We have issues in the public sphere in Norway and hopefully this will have a positive spin-off effect."