Mossad Trying to Take on Diplomatic-security Issues, Claims Foreign Ministry Chief

In letter to Avigdor Lieberman, FM director general Nissim Ben-Sheetrit says ‘multiplicity’ of agencies is causing chaos, and that diplomatic power must be centralized at Foreign Ministry.

Israeli Embassy, Tokyo

The Mossad has recently established a division dealing with diplomatic and security affairs, aimed at issues that would usually be the purview of the Foreign Ministry. This claim was made in a letter by the ministry’s director general, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, in which he bemoaned the “intolerable,” increasing overlap between his ministry and other sections of government.

The letter, addressed to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, dealt primarily with the crisis in relations with the United States, and called for using the current coalition talks to restore some of the responsibilities that have been taken away from the ministry in recent years.

“The decentralization of the Foreign Ministry’s authority and the numerous attempts to establish ‘mini-Foreign Offices’ have seriously hampered Israel’s ability to present an effective and clear-cut policy vis-à-vis all the diplomatic challenges we face,” wrote Ben-Sheetrit. “This phenomenon began many years ago with the establishment of a security-diplomatic wing at the Defense Ministry, which in many instances has tried to replace the Foreign Ministry in dealing with sensitive issues.”

Ben-Sheetrit added that, in recent years, issues like the diplomatic efforts to foil Iran’s nuclear program, the campaign against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), as well as strategic dialogue with the United States, have all been transferred to the Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Ministry. He added that the Diaspora Affairs Ministry is operating in parallel to a similar division at the Foreign Ministry, and that the National Information Directorate in the Prime Minister’s Office is paralleling the activities of the information division at the Foreign Ministry.

The director general went on to detail the diplomatic responsibilities that have been diverted away from the ministry and given to other government agencies: the Palestinian issue is handled by a special representative; the national security council at the Prime Minister’s Office deals with policy implementation and meetings with foreign ministers and other foreign visitors, instead of adhering to its original mission: to handle sensitive security affairs that were not strictly diplomatic ones.

Ben-Sheetrit stated that the economy, regional development, and energy and water resources ministries, plus Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s economic adviser, are all attempting to get into issues such as cooperation with Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece, in areas pertaining to the economy and energy, as well as appropriating issues dealing with Israel’s relations with India and China.

“The multiplicity of agencies dealing with the same topics creates confusion and disorder, unnecessary overlap and a waste of resources. This situation is intolerable. We believe that all the responsibilities for foreign relations should be concentrated in one place, namely the Foreign Ministry,” Ben-Sheetrit concluded.