Israeli diplomats speaks out? Well, at least one has done so…

March 7, 2011
Richard Kuper

Israel’s diplomats are spineless propagandists

Our diplomatic corps today is comprised primarily of spineless propagandists void of values or a conscience. Though some identify with the current government’s policies, a large portion of them oppose the state’s conduct. They are nothing more than puppets in an ugly show window.

Gideon Levy, 6 March 2011

See also Barak Ravid, Veteran Israeli diplomat: Netanyahu and Lieberman harm Israel’s international standing, 2nd March 2011

This happened long ago: I wanted to get accepted into the Foreign Ministry’s cadets course. Israel was a different country then, my views about the state were not the same as they are today and Israel’s envoys abroad were actually ambassadors. Lots of champagne has flowed since then; and, fortunately, I was not accepted. Of course, it would be impossible for me to ever explain the country’s policies today. Somewhat belatedly, Ilan Baruch, a veteran Israeli diplomat, acknowledged his inability to represent or explain these policies either. Last week he handed in his resignation letter, a resonating and impressive document that ought to be studied in the next cadets course.

His vision may be impaired – Baruch was wounded in one eye during the War of Attrition – but he managed to see something that still remains opaque to his colleagues: Israel’s “malignant dynamic,” as he phrased it. As a result of this dynamic, he summoned the courage to resign – a decision that should be commended. Baruch’s resignation and the cowardly silence of his colleagues exposed the decrepit state of Israel’s choir of ambassadors.

Our diplomatic corps today is comprised primarily of spineless propagandists void of values or a conscience. Certainly there are some diplomats among them who identify with the current government’s policies, and perhaps even the scandalous behavior of its foreign minister. But the truth is apparently more sordid: A large portion of them oppose the conduct of the state they represent. They are nothing more than puppets in an ugly show window, backup singers for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Probably better than any other Israelis, the diplomats know what the world thinks of Israel, and why. They know that under Lieberman’s watch the Foreign Ministry has become a vessel of rage toward the entire world. They know that no ambassador is sufficiently adroit to explain the brutality of Operation Cast Lead, or the pointless killing on the Mavi Marmara ship. They know that no country on the planet actually accepts the occupation, the settlements or the indications of Israeli apartheid. They know that no diplomat out there can persuade anyone that Israel is truly aimed toward achieving peace. They know that there is a new world alignment out there – one with no patience for tyranny of the kind enforced by Israel’s occupation.

They know all of this, yet they keep quiet. We already have pilots who refuse to carry out orders, and soldiers who refuse to serve against their conscience; yet until the patriot Ilan Baruch spoke out, Israel did not have a single diplomat who refused to carry out policies that conflict with his or her moral sense.

True, in this new era, an ambassador’s role has lost much of its substance. The connection between a diplomat’s swollen sense of self-importance and his actual task has become tenuous. Virtually all that remains is power, prestige, fancy cars, opulent residences and other relics from the days of great empires, when ambassadors served at great distances from their home countries. Most diplomats stationed around the world today are simply policy advocates. But, as opposed to advocates who represent criminals in court, ambassadors need to identify to a large extent with those who send them on their diplomatic errands.

It can be assumed that a certain portion of Israel’s diplomatic corps lack such an ideological and emotional sense of identification, but simply keep quiet about it. Many simply want to serve their country faithfully, and thus they try to peddle, despite everything, the product of “beautiful Israel.” The result can be pathetic.

I recently caught an interview conducted at one of our consulates in the United States with the Israeli who created the “Zenga Zenga” clip lampooning Muammar Gadhafi (the latest YouTube sensation ); following that, they presented a winning Israeli recipe for an eggplant dish. Excellent! Such ambassadors warrant the disparaging “cocktail-shmocktail” description David Ben-Gurion allotted them.

True, it’s not easy to be an Israeli ambassador in this day and age – not because of the world’s hostility toward us, but because of the country’s policies. What is an ambassador supposed to say about his nation’s “efforts for peace” when his foreign minister states before the United Nations that such efforts have no chance? And what is a diplomat supposed to say about the democratic character of his state at a time when the Palestinians live without rights?

It’s not easy to stand in judgment of others, and demand that they relinquish their careers and their ephemeral glory. But is it excessive to expect that they make their voices heard and show some fortitude? Some integrity? They should look at their colleague, Baruch, the blessed.
Veteran Israeli diplomat: Netanyahu and Lieberman harm Israel’s international standing

Israel’s former ambassador to South Africa indicated in a letter to Foreign Ministry officials that he is retiring in protest of policies advanced by the Netanyahu government.

Barak Ravid, 2nd March 2011

The diplomatic policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are harming Israel’s international standing, a senior Israeli diplomat said in his retiring letter on Tuesday, adding that he felt Israel’s declared stance regarding regional peace attempts was aiding in its own delegitimization.

In a letter written on the eve of his retirement from the Foreign Ministry, Ilan Baruch, who until 18 months ago served as Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, indicated that he had opted to leave Israel’s foreign service in protest of the polices advanced by the Netanyahu government.

“In the last two years,” Baruch wrote, “voices questioning the possibility of resuming talks toward a regional peace, as well as those seeking to eradicate such a possibility, have grown stronger in Israel.”

“The second Netanyahu cabinet, much like the first – despite the ‘Bar-Ilan speech’ – is seen as holding on to the status quo and as deserting the diplomatic effort toward a permanent agreement,” he added.

He said that since “the government was sworn in two years ago, its members have voiced a persistent reluctance to the international demand to withdraw from occupied territories, a disavowal of the Annapolis understandings, as well as a disregard of the Road Map for Peace and the Arab peace initiative.”

As a result, Baruch concluded, “a malignant dynamic has formed, which threatens Israel’s international stance and undermines its legitimacy – not just of the occupation – but of is very membership in the comity of nations.”

Referring to the reasons that had led to his decision to retire ahead of time, the senior diplomat wrote: “In the last two years certain messages were reiterated by the country’s leaders, [messages which] outrage me and which I cannot ignore.”

“I find it difficult to represent them and honestly explain them,” Baruch wrote.

Baruch, who lost his eye during combat in Israel’s War of Attrition, joined the Foreign Ministry following the Yom Kippur War.

In the letter he addressed to ministry officials, the senior diplomat shared his view that Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt, signed a few years after he had joined the Foreign Service, had been an unprecedented turning point in Israel’s national security.

“I remember well the electric feeling which permeated the ministry’s halls,” he wrote, adding that “the recent developments in Egypt only strengthen the realization that it was a historic time. I doubt whether we would have obtained such a strategic/diplomatic asset today.”

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