A veteran diplomat retiring after decades in Israeli service wrote a letter to all Foreign Ministry staff in Israel and worldwide, criticizing Israeli government policy in general, the state of the Foreign Ministry and, in particular, the dismissive way the treasury treats Israeli diplomats.
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In his letter, titled “Me, the Ministry and You,” Eviatar Manor – the permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva since 2012 – summed up 43 years of Israeli diplomatic activity. He retires in a few weeks.
When he joined the Foreign Ministry, Manor wrote, he worked with its very founders. The minister in charge was Abba Eban.
He wraps up his diplomatic career with satisfaction and not a little criticism, he noted. “I am a big believer in a number of human principles and professional ones, too: Honesty, integrity, credibility and knowledge, spiced with genuine concern for the satisfaction of the employee,” wrote Manor. “Hence, my uncomfortable feeling with what is happening at our ministry today. Part is due to the Finance Ministry’s harassment of our workers; part to our politicians who are tearing chunks of flesh from our ministry without batting an eyelash. But part is also because of us, the ministry workers. The unfortunate result is the loss of passion for creativity. We fulfill our missions, we have proven successes, but our faces are downcast and our eyes hollow.”
Manor’s letter represents the general mood in the corridors of the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, and among diplomats in Israel and abroad, says a top ministry official. The ministry hasn’t had a full-time minister for years, most markedly in the last one. The Foreign Ministry has less and less influence over decisions and setting Israeli policy on security.
As for Israel’s diplomatic status and government policy, Manor counsels against the “victim” attitude that members of Israeli government voice from time to time. Foreign Ministry workers are good at their jobs and it’s their duty to deflect harm to Israel’s real interests, he notes – for instance, by delaying deleterious UN votes, or limiting their scope, and any other policy harmful to Israel’s vital interests.
“We are not propaganda machines,” Manor wrote. “We are representatives of policy and will advance it better when we use our skills correctly. We are not victims in the halls of the UN, either. We represent one of the strongest countries in the world. We don’t have to be afraid of anybody. The world is not against us and does not consist of anti-Semites.
“It’s true that it takes all sorts,” he continued. “If we demonstrate our strength, stand by our beliefs but also know to bridge between them and our partners in discourse, we will be rewarded. After all, diplomats are only human and our ability to create the right chemistry will help us even when our policy is difficult to understand. Based on my experience, I can say that Israeli diplomats are held in great esteem and are treated with respect.”
Fighting the Finance Ministry
The employment conditions of Israeli diplomats have been steadily deteriorating, Manor wrote.
After sanctions and a strike at the Foreign Ministry some years ago, the Finance Ministry made promises that were never kept, the source added.
He feels that ministry employees no longer performed their jobs with pleasure in recent years, partly because they feel senior ministry staff aren’t concerned with them. In that context, Manor hinted at criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the foreign minister.
“I am convinced that a miracle will come about and that, one day, a minister will come and fight our fight with the Finance Ministry,” he wrote, adding that the would-be savior would regain lost ground for the ministry. “That would surely improve the mood among ministry employees. The management and staff can restore the passion for creativity together by giving employee welfare more attention.”
For the last eight years, Manor has served key roles at the ministry regarding consolidation and implementation of Israel’s policy at the UN. The first four years were spent working in Jerusalem as head of the International Organizations Division; the last four years have been spent in Geneva. As such, Manor was at the forefront of Israel’s diplomatic activity at the UN human rights council and other organizations almost each week.
A further sign of the sour mood at the Foreign Ministry arrived Monday morning when union representatives disrupted a meeting of the ministry’s appointments committee to protest Netanyahu’s decision to transfer the Cultural Ties division’s responsibilities to Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev.
Netanyahu took the decision without consulting, or even advising, Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold. Just a few months ago, Gold had bragged in a letter to ministry workers in Israel and abroad that he had frustrated a similar move. Following Netanyahu’s decision, Gold asked for an urgent meeting with Eli Groner, the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office. One was scheduled for Monday afternoon. However, Jerusalem sources suspect Gold has missed the boat and the decision is final.