Foreign Ministry Director General: Israel May Pay a Heavy Price for Crisis With U.S.

Coordination with the U.S. is crucial to Israel's ability to cope with Palestinian UN bid and rearming of Hezbollah, top official says.

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Kerry, right, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Washington last week.
Kerry, right, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Washington last week.Credit: AFP

The director of the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday sent a letter to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warning that Israel “is liable to pay a heavy price” because of the “intense, ongoing, and public” crisis in relations with the U.S. administration.

In a two-page letter obtained by Haaretz, Foreign Ministry director-general Nissim Ben-Sheetrit called on Israel to take steps to quickly repair U.S.-Israel ties or face the consequences in the diplomatic and security arenas.

Ben-Sheetrit’s letter focuses on the tense relations between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration. He wrote that close coordination with the United States is crucial and directly connected to Israel’s ability to cope with all its diplomatic and security challenges.

Under the heading “Diplomatic Challenges and Reorganization of the Foreign Ministry,” Ben-Sheetrit details the position of the Foreign Service’s professional staff regarding several issues Israel will have to address within weeks of the new government’s establishment. He said Israel will have to contend with the following issues before the June 30 deadline for reaching a final agreement between Iran and the large powers:

* The pending UN Security Council resolution initiated by France that deals with the Palestinian Authority’s request to become a full member of the United Nations. This resolution is expected to set parameters for resolving the core issues for reaching a permanent-status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians.

* Palestinian lawsuits against Israel at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

* Pressure on Israel regarding its nuclear program by the Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which opens later this month, and anti-Israel initiatives by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Threat from the north

One of the most serious problems Israel must address is the need to formulate a clear and firm stance on Hezbollah’s rearming and the increasing threat from the north, wrote Ben-Sheetrit. Calling this “a most urgent and critical issue for Israel,” he added: “Dealing well with this issue will be next to impossible if it is done without close coordination with the United States.”

The Foreign Ministry director also addressed the effort by Israel to improve the conditions of the nuclear agreement with Iran before June 30. In diplomatic language, Ben-Sheetrit criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to the dispute with the Obama administration on this matter.

“The loud argument being conducted with the White House on the Iranian issue, beyond the other damage, is undermining Israel’s ability to persuade the U.S. administration of the need for crucial changes in the final version of the developing nuclear agreement,” Ben-Sheetrit wrote.

Given all these challenges, Foreign Ministry officials say the most important challenge facing the Israeli government is repairing relations with the United States. “We ascribe the greatest importance to leading processes that will quickly rehabilitate Israeli-American relations so as to prevent harm to many vital Israeli interests in the international arena,” Ben-Sheetrit wrote.

He does not clarify what he means by “processes that will quickly rehabilitate” these bilateral ties. However, numerous Foreign Ministry officials, as well as officials of American Jewish organizations and members of the Obama administration, say replacing Ron Dermer as Israeli ambassador to the United States is one step that must be taken to end the crisis.

So far Netanyahu has supported Dermer, who is considered one of the premier’s closest advisers, and is not considering a replacement.

Ben-Sheetrit suggests bolstering the Foreign Ministry units that handle Israeli relations with the black and Hispanic communities in the United States and with the Christian world in general, particularly “given the great harm by radical Islam against the Christian population of the Middle East and Africa.”

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