Veteran Israeli Diplomat: Netanyahu and Lieberman Harm Israel's International Standing

Israel's former ambassador to South Africa indicated in a letter to Foreign Ministry officials that he is retiring in protest of policies advanced by the Netanyahu government.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The diplomatic policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are harming Israel's international standing, a senior Israeli diplomat said in his retiring letter on Tuesday, adding that he felt Israel's declared stance regarding regional peace attempts was aiding in its own delegitimization.

In a letter written on the eve of his retirement from the Foreign Ministry, Ilan Baruch, who until 18 months ago served as Israel's ambassador to South Africa, indicated that he had opted to leave Israel's foreign service in protest of the polices advanced by the Netanyahu government.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in 2009.Credit: Archive / Tess Scheflan

"In the last two years," Baruch wrote, "voices questioning the possibility of resuming talks toward a regional peace, as well as those seeking to eradicate such a possibility, have grown stronger in Israel."

"The second Netanyahu cabinet, much like the first – despite the 'Bar-Ilan speech' – is seen as holding on to the status quo and as deserting the diplomatic effort toward a permanent agreement," he added.

He said that since "the government was sworn in two years ago, its members have voiced a persistent reluctance to the international demand to withdraw from occupied territories, a disavowal of the Annapolis understandings, as well as a disregard of the Road Map for Peace and the Arab peace initiative."

Ilan Baruch.Credit: Guy Raivitz

As a result, Baruch concluded, "a malignant dynamic has formed, which threatens Israel's international stance and undermines its legitimacy – not just of the occupation – but of is very membership in the comity of nations."

Referring to the reasons that had led to his decision to retire ahead of time, the senior diplomat wrote: "In the last two years certain messages were reiterated by the country's leaders, [messages which] outrage me and which I cannot ignore."

"I find it difficult to represent them and honestly explain them," Baruch wrote.

Baruch, who lost his eye during combat in Israel's War of Attrition, joined the Foreign Ministry following the Yom Kippur War.

In the letter he addressed to ministry officials, the senior diplomat shared his view that Israel's peace treaty with Egypt, signed a few years after he had joined the Foreign Service, had been an unprecedented turning point in Israel's national security.

"I remember well the electric feeling which permeated the ministry's halls," he wrote, adding that "the recent developments in Egypt only strengthen the realization that it was a historic time. I doubt whether we would have obtained such a strategic/diplomatic asset today."

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