Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Israel's Irresponsible Foreign Ministry Leadership

Update: Defense Minister Ehud Barak concurs.

Senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials have called the U.N. Security Council discussion on Israel's settler violence "disgusting." In a move which even the right-leaning Jerusalem Post calls "undiplomatic," These senior officials attacked European countries for their criticism of settlements, settler violence, and a lack of progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Given Israel's already delicate position in the international community, these irresponsible comments damage the security of the state.  They also impugn the reputation of employees of the Foreign Ministry serving abroad who are now forced to deal with these comments in discussions with their host governments.

European pressure towards Israel is nothing new.  The Security Council's resolution on settler violence is also consistent with that of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the state.  Senior members of the Foreign Ministry might disagree with the Prime Minister's position, or legitimately may regret the double standards the Security Council applies to Israel.  

But international politics is not about fairness, and Europe's frustration over Israeli policy is the state of play in the region.  This is a critical time in which Palestinians have been accepted into UNESCO and are vying for state recognition.  Israel is facing increasing pressure by the international community over its presence in the West Bank, and several anti-democratic bills which have been taken up by the Knesset.  One of these bills seeks to limit the funding states - including European states - can give to Israeli NGOs.  Thus, the Foreign Ministry's claim that European countries are becoming irrelevant in Israeli politics is simply absurd.

Expecting that Israel will instruct its diplomats to be diplomatic is not a partisan one. Diplomacy is a basic tool of 21st century statecraft no matter who does it.  Just as defense ministers should not be pacifist, foreign ministry leadership should not regularly reject the basic components of diplomacy.

Real leaders don't make excuses.  They're too busy creating results.  At the task of advancing Israel's posture in the international diplomatic arena, Israel's Foreign Ministry leadership is failing.  Israelis deserve a diplomatic leadership which actually believes in diplomacy and uses it to protect the state, not cynical isolationists who would rather pick useless fights than create real progress and security for Israel.

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