Ignore Israel’s Diplomats At Your Peril


Every year the Israeli Foreign Ministry holds its annual conference in late December/early January where Israeli ambassadors from around the world return home to talk about their experiences abroad. 

And every year we hear sensible things at this conference, which the government ignores.

This year the Israel’s ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor publicly asked the head of the National Security Council Ya’acov Amidror about the logic of the government’s decision to build in Jerusalem’s E1 section. According to Yediot Ahronot, as soon as Ambassador Prosor asked this question, others in the room erupted in applause as a sign of support. The same report quotes Amidror saying in response: “If you don’t like the government’s policies, either resign or go and join a political party”.

Yediot Ahronot’s Itamar Eichner goes on to say that Israeli diplomats are sick and tired apologizing in front of the world for Netanyahu and Liberman’s actions.

And they must be. I really do not envy the job of Israel’s diplomats. I believe that they are very well qualified and work extremely hard. They try to do their utmost to do a good job and we are lucky to have them. Nevertheless I would not want to be an Israeli diplomat. The reason is simple: they are paid 5000 shekels $1400 when serving at home, which all must do between stints. Its a miserly sum and overwhelming number of them suffer financially. They are mostly ignored. In comparison to the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry is treated by the government as if it were its water boy. The Defense Ministry gets far more budgetary allocation, its staff are paid twice as much if not more and its voice is far stronger than that of the foreign ministry.

You might say: well, what do you expect? Israel is surrounded by enemies. It needs to have a strong army.

Yes, but. And the but here is that recent experience has shown that not all our problems can be solved by our air force and army.

Lets take the recent Gaza war as an example. Israel managed to achieve its goal of stopping rocket fire without having to launch a land invasion. Why? because through diplomatic cooperation with the Egyptians and the Americans it was able to place enough pressure on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.

This is what happens when we use our diplomatic muscle wisely.

And when we don’t? Well, lets look at the recent Palestine UN vote. Israel’s alleged nuclear submarines, missiles, 600 fighter jets plus thousands of tanks did not help a bit. We were trounced by the PLO who is less than a military minnow compared to Israel. The world except 9 countries supported them.

And yes, nine countries supported us. America and Canada did so because of their Jewish communities who care deeply for Israel. And the Czech supported us because they have bad memories of Arafat supporting their oppressive Communist government during the Soviet times. Apart from that we were supported by Palau, Panama, the Marshall islands and Micronesia. This result is shameful and it’s because of government policies. You could be an Israeli diplomat and speak 5 different languages, each with a local accent. But thats not going to be enough to justify mind boggling self-destructive Israeli government policies to the world. For example, how could any person of a sound mind justify Israeli government decision to withhold Pasta from being imported by Gaza business people to feed Gazan families, because of the siege. How on earth could a diplomat have justified such an act to their local host in any language, without turning bright red with shame?

And that restriction was only lifted after the Mavi Marmara fiasco. The foreign ministry also warned the government by saying the ship should not be boarded in international waters and that this should only happen if the ship enters territorial waters. Guess what? that advice was ignored too and we saw how the world reacted to the government’s wisdom.

Israel is a democracy and its the job of its democratic institutions is to carry out the will of its elected politicians. I am not saying that the foreign ministry should not carry out government orders. What I am saying is that our leaders must listen to our diplomats. The ground beneath us is shaking yet our politicians prefer to ignore what is happening around us. They prefer to listen to the voice of extremists in Yitzhar settlement than our diplomats. The proof is in the pudding: look at the government’s current policies. We can’t go on like this. I sometimes ask myself: if we didn’t have the support of AIPAC, where would we be diplomatically? who would listen to us?

This is a country, not a military base. Our foreign ministry should have at least the same weight as the Defense Ministry, if not more. Not all of Israel’s external problems can be solved by our 18 years old risking their lives on the front line.

These days, when it comes to solving many of our external problems, the pen is mightier than the sword. We need more powerful and influential diplomats, and more pens.

9 thoughts on “Ignore Israel’s Diplomats At Your Peril

  1. Meir, so what’s to comment?:) You always tell it like it is!!!! Go Meir!!!! Meir for Rosh ha Memshala!! And I mean it! You just SOO have the people and the country’s best interests in mind! Keep these essays and critiques coming. I look forward to everyone one of them. כל הכבוד!

  2. Just a few minor corrections:

    As you write, nine countries total voted against recognizing Palestine at the United Nations; but that includes Israel. So you should have written “eight countries supported us.” In listing the nations voting “no” you also omitted Panama. Surely an oversight, but thought you might want to correct that.

    Also, your tone indicates a distinct disappointment with the result of the vote and wish that more countries had voted with Israel against Palestinian self-determination. Are you saying you oppose the recognition of Palestine as a non-member state to the UN…or even a full member state? If so, on what grounds?

    You often claim to oppose the continuing colonization of Palestine and call for an end to the occupation, yet your only critiques of these policies ever seem to be based on political fallout, not on international law, humanitarian grounds or even morality. Even your description of the Mavi Marmara massacre seems to absolve Israel of criminality and murder – the “world’s reaction” is what bothers you, not the actual killing of human beings in international waters. (Incidentally, you say that the flotilla should have been boarded in territorial waters – but it was Gaza-bound, not Israel-bound, so it never would have entered Israeli waters. Only if you believe Israel has sovereignty over Gaza could the Gaza coastline be considered Israeli waters. Please explain.)

    One last thing, if you don’t mind: In an article for The Diplomat back in 2011, you deemed the notion that “‘Zionists’ control U.S. foreign policy…[and] if not for Israel and its supporters, the United States would be taking a less hostile approach towards Iran,” to be (in your own words) “inaccurate and distorted.”

    Yet, in the article above, you write, “if we didn’t have the support of AIPAC, where would we be diplomatically? who would listen to us?” How do you reconcile these two comments?

    Happy New Year!

  3. Whoops! Totally correct. It’s Nauru that’s missing, not Panama. My bad – thanks for the catch, Mark.

  4. Hi Jeff
    You say “One last thing, if you don’t mind: In an article for The Diplomat back in 2011, you deemed the notion that “‘Zionists’ control U.S. foreign policy…[and] if not for Israel and its supporters, the United States would be taking a less hostile approach towards Iran,” to be (in your own words) “inaccurate and distorted.”
    Please show me the article where I say what you are quoting me for. Thanks.

  5. Hi Meir –

    Those quotes are taken directly from your article from November 10, 2011, entitled “Memo to Iran: Obama Won’t Let It Go.”

    Here’s the link: http://thediplomat.com/2011/11/10/memo-to-iran-obama-won%E2%80%99t-let-it-go/ , though I would imagine you are already familiar with your own work.

    Thanks for responding, albeit not to any of the questions I asked. I’m sure you’re busy, but hopefully you’ll find some time in the future to reply. Have a good weekend!

  6. Jeff, the quote clearly says “Iran’s government, for its part, still subscribes to the view that “Zionists” control U.S. foreign policy, arguing that if not for Israel and its supporters, the United States would be taking a less hostile approach towards Iran.”
    Note the words “Iran’s government”. This is how the regime sees the situation, not me. I am describing its point of view.

  7. Yes, I’m aware of that. That’s irrelevant to my question. Please read what I wrote again. You call such a view (even though the link you provide actually states it’s Helen Thomas who subscribes to that view, not that Iranian government) “inaccurate and distorted.” I never claim that was your point of view in that article.

    My question (there are more questions that just that one in my original comment, none of which you’ve addressed) was that, after you dismissed such a view as “inaccurate and distorted” in November 2011, you somewhat subscribe to a similar view in the above post when you seem to credit AIPAC for being responsible for getting the US government to defend Israel diplomatically. You write, without that lobby, “who would listen to us?”

    My question was about reconciling those two statements.

  8. Having patiently waited in vain for two weeks for any kind of honest and non-evasive response to my questions, it’s clear you have neither the courage nor the inclination to reply at all. Your silence is very telling.

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