Former Ambassador to London Zvi Heifetz Nominated for China

Beijing tenure will be for three years, rather than the standard two, due to the importance the government attaches to expanding ties with China.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Israeli Ambassador to Vienna Zvi Heifetz.Credit: Courtesy Israel Foreign Ministry
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Zvi Heifetz, currently Israel's ambassador to Austria, has been nominated as the country's envoy to China. The nomination will be brought to the cabinet for its approval at its meeting next Sunday.

Heifetz will replace former minister Matan Vilnai, whose term ends next summer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set the promotion of ties with China as one of the central goals of Israel's foreign policy.

Heifetz will be a political appointment in Beijing, as he is not a career diplomat. Nevertheless, China will be his third diplomatic appointment, following London (2004 – 2007) and Austria. In his latter capacity he has also been the envoy to the United Nations bodies in Vienna.

The draft nomination that will be brought to the cabinet for approval specifies that Heifetz will be appointed for a period of three years, instead of the two-year term that is standard for ambassadors and consul-generals who are political appointees.

"In light of the challenges currently facing Israel and the sensitivity and complexity of the country's relations with China, it is necessary to extend the ambassador's tenure from two years to three in order to establish the minimal continuity necessary for this special mission," the draft nomination states.

As ambassador to China, Heifetz will also serve as non-resident ambassador to Mongolia.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who will present the nomination to the cabinet, wrote that Heifetz has the requisite diplomatic experience following his London posting. In addition, Lieberman wrote, Heifetz gained additional experience in Vienna and his work with such international organizations as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In an opinion provided to the cabinet ministers, Lieberman wrote that the fact that Heifetz had filled a variety of roles in the business world, including deputy chairman of Maariv newspaper, board membership of various companies and a commercial legal practice, provides him with added value regarding his role in China.

"One of Israel's goals in Asia is to expand the commercial discourse and commercial cooperation with countries in the region, chief among them China," Lieberman wrote. "In that respect, Mr. Heifetz's wide experience in the private sector will add a lot to his role."

Netanyahu has assigned the promotion of commercial ties with China a high priority since the establishment of the current government. On a number of occasions he has told ministers to give priority to visits to China over those to Europe. In June the government decided to upgrade commercial relations with China.