The minister’s punching bag

Op-eds / Strengthening Israel's Foreign Policy

Education Minister Naftali Bennett was right when he declared that the Foreign Ministry’s personnel “have a DNA.” But contrary to him, having been a member of that family for many years, I consider it a national treasure. And I am proud of it.

This DNA has brought the best and the brightest to the foreign service, and their leading motivation has been to serve the country, any time, any place and in all circumstances.

This DNA accounts for the fact that members of the service have been ready to serve in places where health services or a decent education for their children is not assured. It accounts for the fact that our diplomats are ready to put their lives and those of their families on the line. I highly recommend to Minister Bennett that he take a look at the list of the members of the Foreign Ministry killed by terrorists while defending the interests of our country around the world. Need I mention that the security threats are greater these days? This DNA has placed our emissaries more often than not in front of hostile, sometimes even violent audiences. Some of them have been the recipients of insults and threats, others have had shoes and even eggs thrown in their faces. And yet the same DNA gives our young people the stamina to be creative, to always look for new ways, new means to open doors, to set the record straight, to foster sympathy and support for Israel. These days, while one hears only cries of outrage and condemnation of recent statements by Sweden’s foreign minister, the Foreign Ministry’s cadre are hosting delegations of politicians from Sweden, to show them also the good and beautiful side of our society.

To say that presenting Israel’s policies abroad nowadays is an easy task would be a lie. Not only Israel’s enemies but also some of our closest friends and allies do not understand them, let alone accept some of their basic tenets. And yes, some of our devoted diplomats, those who have courage to act so, feel that it is their duty to report to the policy-makers in Jerusalem the problems they are facing, the question marks raised, the changes in public opinion. But more often than not we kill the messenger.

With the passing of time, I keep wondering (and grieving) at the instinct to destruction so prevalent in today’s politics, the determination to destroy, to shred to pieces all that was good and built with great pains. The Foreign Ministry, one of the best tools at the service of this country’s interests, has been taken apart by our prime minister, who offered large chunks of it and some of its basic tasks, as a consolation prize, to some of the ministers in his coalition. Thus, in the absence of a clear, complete and coherent view of the picture, the ministry is becoming irrelevant. Moreover, it is being turned into the punching bag of politicians who make it responsible for their own failures.

Unfortunately, it is our country that will pay the price for this behavior.

(originally published in the Jerusalem Post)

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