Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has sent Israeli embassies and missions worldwide a booklet extolling her achievements since she took office five months ago.
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The ornate booklet bears the emblem of the Foreign Ministry alongside the Likud Party's logo, and was disseminated by diplomatic mail. The booklet's production and dissemination may be in breach of instructions from the attorney general, and may constitute a violation of ministerial ethics codes and the foreign service's standing orders.
A number of ambassadors told Haaretz they were astounded to find the booklet with the Likud logo in the diplomatic mail pouches that arrived at their respective embassies last week.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said the diplomatic pouch was intended for sending overseas official state documents and correspondence in hard copy or classified documents.
"The diplomatic mail is not intended to send political or partisan material," he said.
Hotovely's office produced the booklet with Knesset funds allocated for maintaining ties with voters. Each Knesset member is entitled such budget. It was initially intended for Likud members, and many copies were indeed sent to party activists. At the same time, Hotovely's office decided to send the booklet to Israel's embassies abroad as well.
The cover of the booklet, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, features a photograph of Hotovely with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, above the caption "A summary of the summer 2015 session – Tzipi Hotovely Deputy Foreign Minister."
With the state's emblem at the top of the cover page, the pamphlet appears like an official state document. At the bottom of the cover page, however, appears the Likud logo.
The publication's six pages carry photos of Hotovely with the EU foreign policy chief, the Italian prime minister and a few other world leaders, alongside media reports about her activity, like the decision to bring foreign guests to visit the Western Wall.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials said the pamphlet has become the talk of the day in the ministry. Some diplomats reacted with anger, seeing the incident as an attempt to use the Foreign Ministry's resources and emblem for political purposes. Some ambassadors asked the ministry for clarifications and queried whether they were supposed to do anything with the pamphlet.
"You can't do things like that," a senior official said. "You can't use the Foreign Ministry's emblem on a publication for political activists, use the Likud emblem on a document to Israeli embassies and use the diplomatic mail to distribute it in the world. Since the picture album we received more than 20 years ago documenting Foreign Minister David Levy's trip in China we haven't seen such a thing."
Another official said quite a few diplomats were surprised that Hotovely, after mere five months at the job, has already produced a booklet about her activity. "She's just started out and has hardly done anything," he said. "It's embarrassing how she congratulates herself for achievements when it's not at all clear what they are."
Disseminating political booklets constitutes a breach of the foreign service's procedure and regulations. It may also be in breach of the attorney general's instructions to the ministers and deputy ministers to completely separate their state duties from their political pursuits.
The attorney general's instructions forbid ministers and their deputies to make use of their ministry's resources, in this case the diplomatic mail, for political propaganda. The instructions explicitly forbid disseminating ministry documents that include a description of the minister's personal achievements or his portrait.
Hotovely said in response that "all Israel's embassies in the world received a booklet briefing them about my main activities in the Foreign Ministry. No political activity appeared in the booklet, only ministerial activity."
"The booklet is part of the desire to share with the Israeli diplomats the main issues of the ministry's activity. It was sent as a summary of the year, ahead of the new year. Those who edited the booklet must have mistakenly included the party logo, which wasn't supposed to appear on the booklets that were sent abroad. The booklets were financed by the budget for ties with the voter and not a shekel was taken from the ministry's budget," she said.