Upgrading the Capacity of Israel’s Foreign Policy Apparatus to Deal with the Climate Crisis

Policy papers and recommendations / Strengthening Israel's Foreign Policy

The climate crisis is a formative change with far-reaching consequences for Israel’s future and its strategic policies, not simply in domestic terms of quality of life and economic structure and policies, but also for its relations with the region and the world. An examination of Israel’s foreign policy vis-à-vis the complex challenges presented by the climate crisis shows that Israel’s foreign policy decision-makers and planners have yet to internalize the sharp change looming ahead of the country and its political-diplomatic direction in the coming decade. The existing perceptions, the sporadic action, and the limited conceptual and material resources issue demonstrate that it has yet to reach the level of a substantial strategic issue n Israel’s conduct of its foreign affairs. As a result, the ministries and agencies tasked with various aspects of foreign policy operate in a decentralized and unregulated manner on international cooperation to confront climate issues.

Adapting the foreign system to the challenge of the climate crisis requires, first and foremost, a profound conceptual change. It calls for a shift from the logic of dealing with the climate issue as a “foster child” of secondary importance to core strategic issues to a new approach of climate diplomacy that sees the climate crisis as a political strategic game changer of prime importance to foreign policy and its implementation. Dealing with the climate crisis as a political issue challenges traditional thinking about the practices shaping foreign relations and about the actors expected to lead these processes. For example, it redefines the importance of non-governmental actors – civil society organizations, the scientific technological community, and the business sector – and positions them as active participants in shaping foreign policy. More broadly, adopting climate diplomacy provides an opportunity to reexamine the relationship between the government and non-governmental sectors in shaping Israel’s foreign relations as a whole.

Based on a review of the structure and activities of Israel’s foreign affairs apparatus on climate issues and case studies from other countries and interstate bodies, the aim of this policy paper is to propose recommendations for conceptual and structural-systemic changes to upgrade Israel’s foreign affairs apparatus handling of climate change challenges. Implementation of conceptual change in the field of climate diplomacy at the national level relies on three main components: a) anchoring and defining the role of Israel’s foreign policy within the framework of Israel’s national effort to confront climate change; b) a structural change in the foreign affairs system itself – defining a strategic integrating actor to deal with the international pillar of Israel’s climate policy; a clear internal division of roles within the system and improvement of inter-ministerial coordination through a permanent government forum; and substantial increase of resources and managerial inputs devoted to the field within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this context, we see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a national integrator in shaping Israel’s climate diplomacy. c) the creation of new multisectoral systems of cooperation between Israel’s governmental and non-governmental sectors.

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