This happened long ago: I wanted to get accepted into the Foreign Ministry's cadets course. Israel was a different country then, my views about the state were not the same as they are today and Israel's envoys abroad were actually ambassadors. Lots of champagne has flowed since then; and, fortunately, I was not accepted. Of course, it would be impossible for me to ever explain the country's policies today. Somewhat belatedly, Ilan Baruch, a veteran Israeli diplomat, acknowledged his inability to represent or explain these policies either. Last week he handed in his resignation letter, a resonating and impressive document that ought to be studied in the next cadets course.
His vision may be impaired - Baruch was wounded in one eye during the War of Attrition - but he managed to see something that still remains opaque to his colleagues: Israel's "malignant dynamic," as he phrased it. As a result of this dynamic, he summoned the courage to resign - a decision that should be commended. Baruch's resignation and the cowardly silence of his colleagues exposed the decrepit state of Israel's choir of ambassadors.
Our diplomatic corps today is comprised primarily of spineless propagandists void of values or a conscience. Certainly there are some diplomats among them who identify with the current government's policies, and perhaps even the scandalous behavior of its foreign minister. But the truth is apparently more sordid: A large portion of them oppose the conduct of the state they represent. They are nothing more than puppets in an ugly show window, backup singers for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Probably better than any other Israelis, the diplomats know what the world thinks of Israel, and why. They know that under Lieberman's watch the Foreign Ministry has become a vessel of rage toward the entire world. They know that no ambassador is sufficiently adroit to explain the brutality of Operation Cast Lead, or the pointless killing on the Mavi Marmara ship. They know that no country on the planet actually accepts the occupation, the settlements or the indications of Israeli apartheid. They know that no diplomat out there can persuade anyone that Israel is truly aimed toward achieving peace. They know that there is a new world alignment out there - one with no patience for tyranny of the kind enforced by Israel's occupation.
They know all of this, yet they keep quiet. We already have pilots who refuse to carry out orders, and soldiers who refuse to serve against their conscience; yet until the patriot Ilan Baruch spoke out, Israel did not have a single diplomat who refused to carry out policies that conflict with his or her moral sense.
True, in this new era, an ambassador's role has lost much of its substance. The connection between a diplomat's swollen sense of self-importance and his actual task has become tenuous. Virtually all that remains is power, prestige, fancy cars, opulent residences and other relics from the days of great empires, when ambassadors served at great distances from their home countries. Most diplomats stationed around the world today are simply policy advocates. But, as opposed to advocates who represent criminals in court, ambassadors need to identify to a large extent with those who send them on their diplomatic errands.
It can be assumed that a certain portion of Israel's diplomatic corps lack such an ideological and emotional sense of identification, but simply keep quiet about it. Many simply want to serve their country faithfully, and thus they try to peddle, despite everything, the product of "beautiful Israel." The result can be pathetic.
I recently caught an interview conducted at one of our consulates in the United States with the Israeli who created the "Zenga Zenga" clip lampooning Muammar Gadhafi (the latest YouTube sensation ); following that, they presented a winning Israeli recipe for an eggplant dish. Excellent! Such ambassadors warrant the disparaging "cocktail-shmocktail" description David Ben-Gurion allotted them.
True, it's not easy to be an Israeli ambassador in this day and age - not because of the world's hostility toward us, but because of the country's policies. What is an ambassador supposed to say about his nation's "efforts for peace" when his foreign minister states before the United Nations that such efforts have no chance? And what is a diplomat supposed to say about the democratic character of his state at a time when the Palestinians live without rights?
It's not easy to stand in judgment of others, and demand that they relinquish their careers and their ephemeral glory. But is it excessive to expect that they make their voices heard and show some fortitude? Some integrity? They should look at their colleague, Baruch, the blessed.