Foreign Minister Yair Lapid wants to return Tzipi Hotovely from her job as ambassador to Britain and replace her with a former minister from his own party, Yael German.
Hotovely was a political appointment by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Foreign Ministry sources criticized the idea of returning her to Israel two years before her term ends, and several said it would be “legally impossible.”
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People close to Lapid confirmed that he has been considering this move, but said a final decision hasn’t been made. German told Haaretz she had no comment on the matter.
Hotovely said she has no intention of resigning just because there’s a new government. “I’m happy to serve, as I promised,” she said. “I like diplomatic work very much.”
“This would violate her contract, and it’s hard to believe any court would lend a hand to it,” sources in the Foreign Ministry said.
Another source said: “A political appointment is valid for the ambassador’s entire term, and it’s almost impossible to recall instances in the past in which ambassadors who were political appointees were recalled to Israel before their term ended.”
Lapid has already announced another political appointment in the Foreign Ministry. Earlier this week, Lapid named former Tourism Minister, Asaf Zamir, Israel’s new consul general in New York.
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Lapid’s predecessor as foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, boasted of having made no political appointments at all during his term and relying exclusively on professional diplomats.
Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett are together allowed 11 political appointments to diplomatic postings around the world. Netanyahu didn’t use his full quota, appointing only three ambassadors – Hotovely to Britain, Gilad Erdan as ambassador to the United States and the United Nations and Dror Eydar to Italy.
Hotovely was appointed last August for a three-year term. Although her appointment was political, Hotovely's performance to date has been considered successful, and she won praise for her efforts to present Israel’s positions in the European media during last month’s fighting in the Gaza Strip. The extension of Hotovely’s term as ambassador to Britain, however, is subject to approval by the Foreign Ministry.
On Sunday, the government approved the appointments of 36 heads of missions around the world, including ambassadors to Jordan, India, the European Union and Japan. The appointments, which were delayed for months, are professional and apolitical.
They were initially approved between August and December last year, but were frozen due to a confrontation between Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan ministers in the previous government. The new ambassadors are expected to fill senior positions at the top of the Foreign Ministry, including ten positions at the rank of deputy chief or division head.