Africa / Middle East

Documents Detail Exclusion of Israeli Representative at Olive Council Meeting

Documents reviewed by Olive Oil Times provide a detailed chronology of events that took place on the day of a key Council of Members meeting. The IOC denies it intentionally barred the Israeli proxy from attending.

Merrakech, Morocco
Jul. 30, 2019
By Daniel Dawson
Merrakech, Morocco

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Ignazio Castel­lucci first real­ized some­thing was amiss at 8:15 AM when he arrived at the hotel con­fer­ence room in which the Inter­na­tional Olive Council’s (IOC) 109th ses­sion of the Coun­cil of Mem­bers meet­ing was set to take place.
See more: Israel Accuses IOC of Block­ing Access to Key Meet­ing, Sources Say
After quickly scan­ning the room, he noticed there was no Israeli flag. This was highly unusual since a let­ter from Adi Naali, the head of Israel’s del­e­ga­tion to the IOC, had been sent to the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat the pre­vi­ous day, con­firm­ing Castellucci’s appoint­ment as a proxy. The bi-annual meet­ing was set to begin at about 10:30.

Castel­lucci, an Ital­ian lawyer and adjunct pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Ter­amo, had been asked by Naali to attend the meet­ing as he was unable to do so. The meet­ing took place in Mar­rakech, Morocco, which has no for­mal diplo­matic ties with Israel and does not rec­og­nize the coun­try as a sov­er­eign state. As a result, Naali said that he was unable to get a visa.

Dear Min­is­ter, dear Sirs, I am out­side the meet­ing hall and the secu­rity per­son­nel don’t let me in. I showed them the email from the embassy and the let­ter attached, to no result.- Ignazio Castel­lucci, lawyer and Israeli proxy to the Coun­cil of Mem­bers meet­ing

The fol­low­ing events have been con­structed using doc­u­ments reviewed by Olive Oil Times and cor­rob­o­rated in inter­views. In a state­ment made to Olive Oil Times, the IOC nei­ther con­firmed nor denied the account­ing of events detailed here.

A spokesper­son from the orga­ni­za­tion said that the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat regrets this set­back, which pre­vented Israel from par­tic­i­pat­ing” and plans to inves­ti­gate Naali’s claims before mak­ing a for­mal report to the Coun­cil of Mem­bers.

After fail­ing to see the Israeli flag in the con­fer­ence room, at 8:30 Castel­lucci went over to the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat work­ing room, in which the IOC’s cre­den­tial com­mit­tee had also been oper­at­ing. After wait­ing to be seen for 22 min­utes, an IOC lawyer finally approached him and informed him that his nom­i­na­tion was not valid and as a result, he would be unable to attend the meet­ing.

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A let­ter from Dr. Adi Naali inform­ing of the appoint­ment for the 109th meet­ing of Mr Ignazio Castel­lucci, from a per­sonal email… was received by the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat. This com­mu­ni­ca­tion was not signed by a com­pe­tent accred­i­ta­tion author­ity of Israel (Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Rural Devel­op­ment),” a report from the IOC’s cre­den­tials com­mit­tee, which was obtained by Olive Oil Times, said.

This Com­mit­tee can not con­sider [Naali] accred­ited for this ses­sion as he was not appointed by the rel­e­vant author­ity of Israel,” the report con­tin­ued. Addi­tion­ally, Dr. Naali can not accredit another per­son as head of del­e­ga­tion as he is not accred­ited by Israel for the cur­rent ses­sion.”

Naali dis­putes this claim, say­ing that he has been the accred­ited head of Israel’s del­e­ga­tion for the past eight years and stat­ing that he had pre­vi­ously autho­rized the Turk­ish del­e­gate to serve as Israel’s proxy at an IOC meet­ing in 2013.

Naali had used the same email address back in 2013 to inform the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat of this and the Turk­ish del­e­gate was able to attend on Israel’s behalf with­out any issues aris­ing.

It is com­mon pro­ce­dure for IOC mem­bers that if you won’t be able to attend the meet­ing, you try to autho­rize some­one else to do so,” Naali told Olive Oil Times.

Nor­mally some­one from the embassy would go to attend the meet­ing, but since there is no Israeli embassy in Morocco, Naali needed to ask some­one else. He approached the rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Euro­pean Union, but he was already rep­re­sent­ing Mon­tene­gro at the meet­ing. Sev­eral other IOC mem­ber coun­tries were also unsure that they would be able to rep­re­sent Israel.

So I moved to the other option, which is to autho­rize another pro­fes­sional to be there as Israel’s del­e­gate, which is what I had done,” Naali said.

In its state­ment to Olive Oil Times, the IOC said that a 2012 Coun­cil of Mem­bers meet­ing was held in Morocco and the Israeli rep­re­sen­ta­tive that year, Shi­mon Lavee, was able to attend. The IOC also stated that it had a very strict set of rules regard­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion and del­e­ga­tion of author­ity.”

At 9:06, Castel­lucci called Naali on the phone to inform him that he had been barred from attend­ing the meet­ing due to a lack of proper accred­i­ta­tion from Israel’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Rural Devel­op­ment.

By 9:37, Naali had for­warded an email writ­ten on offi­cial gov­ern­ment let­ter­head by Yakov Poleg, the direc­tor of the for­eign rela­tions depart­ment at the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Rural Devel­op­ment, to the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat stat­ing that Castel­lucci would replace Naali.

The email had also been sent directly from Poleg to the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat the pre­vi­ous day and received no response.

Dear Mr. Abdel­latif Ghedira [the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the IOC], kindly be informed that Dr. Adi Naali, direc­tor of the olive depart­ment in Israel’s Plants Board is Israel’s head of del­e­ga­tion, but due to the fact that he wouldn’t be able to arrive to Mar­rakech, our rep­re­sen­ta­tive and del­e­gate… is Mr. Ignazio Castel­lucci,” Poleg wrote in his email.

Once Castel­lucci had been informed that Poleg’s email was for­warded to the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat, he returned to the room in which the cre­den­tial com­mit­tee was set up to tell the offi­cials that an email from Poleg had arrived. He was once again informed by IOC offi­cials that he would be unable to attend the meet­ing.

At around 10:30, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the cre­den­tial com­mit­tee left the office in which they had been work­ing and entered the con­fer­ence room. Castel­lucci attempted to fol­low but was told that he did not have the proper accred­i­ta­tion to attend and turned away from the door.

At 10:33, the lawyer from the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat came out of the con­fer­ence room and told Castel­lucci that he would be unable to attend. The meet­ing began at 10:34.

Castel­lucci pro­ceeded to call and email Naali, say­ing that the meet­ing had started and he had not been allowed to enter. Naali then con­tacted the Israeli embassy in Madrid and at 10:53 the embassy sent an email to the IOC with another let­ter autho­riz­ing Castel­lucci to serve as Israel’s proxy.

At 11:04, Castel­lucci again tried to enter the meet­ing but was again told he lacked the proper accred­i­ta­tion. He pro­ceeded to write an email to every­one included in the Israeli embassy’s prior email (to which he had been cc’d):

It is com­mon pro­ce­dure for IOC mem­bers that if you won’t be able to attend the meet­ing, you try to autho­rize some­one else to do so.- Adi Naali, head of Israel’s del­e­ga­tion to the IOC

Dear Min­is­ter, dear Sirs,” he wrote. I am out­side the meet­ing hall and the secu­rity per­son­nel don’t let me in. I showed them the email from the embassy and the let­ter attached, to no result.”

It remains unclear whether the secu­rity staff to whom Castel­lucci referred in his email were staff mem­bers of the IOC or the Moroc­can gov­ern­ment.

At 11:12, Castel­lucci spot­ted two IOC staff mem­bers and asked them to try and print the email from Poleg. The two staff mem­bers said they will try to do so and went off to another part of the hotel.

Sev­en­teen min­utes later, the two staff mem­bers returned and informed Castel­lucci that they were unable to print the let­ter. They returned to the meet­ing and said they would ask the IOC lawyer to come out and see the emails on Castellucci’s phone. The lawyer did not come out.

At 11:41, one of the IOC staff mem­bers came out of the meet­ing and handed Castel­lucci the printed Poleg email and embassy autho­riza­tion. Castel­lucci approached the secu­rity staff and asked them to take the doc­u­ments to the lawyer. A staff mem­ber agreed to do so, but returned shortly after­ward and informed him that the lawyer was unable to read the doc­u­ments at the moment.

Castel­lucci pro­ceeded to write a sec­ond email to all of the recip­i­ents of his pre­vi­ous email.

I just asked one of the per­sons at the door to get in and bring copies of the embassy’s email and attached let­ter to the IOC lawyer inside the hall, it seems that he refused to read it, being too busy’,” Castel­lucci wrote.

At 11:50, the Coun­cil of Mem­bers meet­ing broke for a cof­fee break. Castel­lucci approached the staff at the door and asked if they could take the papers to the lawyer now. They refused and said when he came out, Castel­lucci could give them to him him­self.

By 11:58 the lawyer had not come out and Castel­lucci approached a mem­ber of the IOC sup­port office and asked her to bring the papers to the lawyer. She responded that she was not autho­rized to do so.

Two min­utes later, the lawyer emerged from the room and headed in the oppo­site direc­tion from Castel­lucci. He tried to get the lawyer’s atten­tion but failed to do so.

At 12:20, Castel­lucci spot­ted Miguel Gar­cia Navarro, the head of the Euro­pean Union del­e­ga­tion, and asked him for assis­tance. Gar­cia Navarro responded that he was not in a posi­tion to help Castel­lucci out and returned to the meet­ing.

Israel is a found­ing coun­try that has always par­tic­i­pated in the activ­i­ties of the orga­ni­za­tion and Dr. Naali, who offi­cially rep­re­sents his coun­try at the IOC since 2012, is a very active mem­ber who has always enriched the meet­ings of the Coun­cil with his exten­sive knowl­edge in the field.- Spokesper­son for the IOC

At this point, Castel­lucci left the hotel after try­ing to gain access to the meet­ing for the past four hours.

Dur­ing the meet­ing Ghedira, Deputy Direc­tor Jaime Lillo and Mustafa Sepetçi, the direc­tor of the IOC’s tech­ni­cal, eco­nomic and pro­mo­tional units, were all re-elected to four-year terms.

Accord­ing to Naali, these three posi­tions are gen­er­ally cho­sen by con­sen­sus and while he did not say that Israel would have blocked any of these appoint­ments, he did empha­size that he thought Israel should have par­tic­i­pated in the dis­cus­sion.

I would think an issue of this impor­tance needed to be dis­cussed in detail at the ses­sion with­out the exclu­sion of some of the mem­ber coun­tries,” Naali said. We could debate the issues for a very long time, but usu­ally we find a con­sen­sus.”

On Fri­day, Naali wrote a let­ter to the IOC to make his dis­con­tent­ment known. He said that as a result of Israel’s exclu­sion, the coun­try would not con­sider any of the busi­ness done in the meet­ing legit­i­mate.

It is clear that this maneu­ver of block­ing the entrance of the Israeli del­e­gate, mak­ing incor­rect state­ments and omit­ting doc­u­ments to the Coun­cil, had the objec­tive of imped­ing Israel’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the meet­ing,” Naali wrote.

Due to these cir­cum­stances, Israel does not con­sider the ren­o­va­tion of the senior Direc­tors of the IOC to be legit­i­mate, and does not trust in its man­age­ment for the future,” he added.

The spokesper­son from the IOC denied that Israel’s del­e­gate had been inten­tion­ally excluded from the event and praised Naali for his con­tri­bu­tions to the inter­na­tional olive oil sec­tor.

Israel is a found­ing coun­try that has always par­tic­i­pated in the activ­i­ties of the orga­ni­za­tion and Dr. Naali, who offi­cially rep­re­sents his coun­try at the IOC since 2012, is a very active mem­ber who has always enriched the meet­ings of the Coun­cil with his exten­sive knowl­edge in the field,” the spokesper­son said.

The report from the IOC’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter is expected next month.


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