Fact-checking Israeli Foreign Minister's List of Diplomatic Achievements

Is Yisrael Katz right in taking credit for the Yad Vashem international extravaganza, pacts with Gulf States and maintaining ties with China amid the threat of coronavirus?

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Yisrael Katz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, in 2019.
Yisrael Katz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, in 2019.Credit: Emil Salman
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Israel's Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz responded Sunday to a Haaretz report containing claims by past and present diplomats, ambassadors and researchers that he has few achievements to show for after a year in office. The Likud minister published a list enumerating his accomplishments, which upon closer examination were found to be false or inaccurate.

Katz claimed credit for “75 Years since the liberation of Auschwitz,” referring to last month's ceremony at Yad Vashem which saw official visits by high-profile international leaders. However, the initiative came from the President Reuven Rivlin in cooperation with Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Conference and the World Holocaust Forum. The Foreign Ministry did manage certain diplomatic aspects of the event, but Katz was only present at some of the receptions, and claiming that he contributed to the event's production would be a misrepresentation.

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Katz claimed credit for “renewing ties with Bolivia.” Haaretz has no information about his contribution. Rather, the real impetus for renewed ties is believed to be the coup that ousted President Evo Morales.

Katz listed “agreement with Honduras to move the embassy to Jerusalem and open interest offices in Jerusalem of additional countries," but the campaign to move embassies to Jerusalem is actually being boosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As for Honduras, the country currently has no intention of moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Instead, it said it would open a trade office in Jerusalem, which has yet to happen.

Katz also took credit for “countries declaring Hezbollah a terror organization,” and for the “struggle in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.” These are two issues that Netanyahu has promoted, as has the National Security Council, headed by Meir Ben-Shabbat, who is the prime minister’s emissary for sensitive matters. President Reuven Rivlin also raised the issue in diplomatic meetings during the International Holocaust Forum last month, and Katz was not present in these meetings.

Katz also mentioned the “Expo exhibition in Dubai and promoting the relationship and agreements with Gulf States.” Katz has indeed tried to focus on promoting ties with the Gulf States and has visited the Emirates, as was mentioned in the original Haaretz report. But the agreements he spoke of, “non-aggression pacts,” have yet to become a reality.

Finally, Katz counts as one of his achievements “maintenance of ties with China during the corona crisis and moving ahead with the evacuation of Israelis from the Japanese ship,” referring to a cruise ship on which a number of Israeli passengers are quarantined. The diplomats who are actually maintaining ties with China were not happy to see this credit stolen and have expressed a feeling that Katz has abandoned them.

In recent days, they have been informed that despite their major efforts in China, they will face significant cuts in their employment conditions. In addition, no Israelis have been evacuated from the cruise ship.

The only truth in Katz’s response is the phrase: “And many more actions in full cooperation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” Katz indeed does not challenge Netanyahu, and the two men's statements on diplomatic matters are identical.

Staff members of Katz's office declined to comment for this report.

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