Visit by Japanese Defense Officials Canceled Due to Cuts at Israeli Foreign Ministry

Israel had hoped to keep the warm ties going on the back of the first visit to the country by Japan's military chief

A Japanese Defense Force member adjusts a cap of one of honor guard members before the Japan Self-Defense Forces senior officers' gathering at Defense Ministry in Tokyo, September 17, 2019.
Eugene Hoshiko,AP

A planned visit to Israel by a large Japanese security delegation has been  canceled due to budget cuts at the Israeli Foreign Ministry in recent months, Israel's third cancellation with Japan since the summer.

An official with knowledge of the incident expressed regret that “in a year when Gen. Koji Yamazaki, the chief of staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, visited Israel for the first time” and the two countries’ defense ministries signed an agreement, “we have lost the positive momentum of a senior delegation from the security sphere." 

The delegation was invited by the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo and included guests from the Japanese National Security Council, the Defense Ministry, the national and Tokyo police, the Foreign Ministry, the national security college and research institutions. Each member had already received an invitation from the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry, however, said budget cuts meant it could no longer afford the visit. The trip was projected to cost 120,000 shekels, or $34,700.

“As part of the joint activities of the Israeli Embassy in Japan, and with the goal of strengthening relations between the two countries, the embassy planned the visit by a number of delegations of young leaders from Japan in Israel," the ministry said.

"Unfortunately, because of budget constraints, the delegation that was set to visit Israel at the end of the year will not take place in 2019.” This has happened despite Japan’s growing defense budget, “which has created opportunities for cooperation with Israeli industry.”

Tuesday's news follows previous cancellations with both Japan and South Korea. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has aborted two planned visits to Japan at the last minute due to Israel’s hectic domestic politics, causing embarrassment in Tokyo.

Also, the Israeli Embassy in Seoul recently had to tell a group representing Christian journalists in South Korea that a delegation could not be hosted in Israel. Such a visit could have been a diplomatic achievement, raising Israel's profile among Christian businesspeople and tourists from South Korea.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has suffered an eroding budget and standing in recent years. This year, the Finance Ministry imposed a major budget cut at the Foreign Ministry and froze activities because the ministry significantly exceeded its budget. Since then, Israeli ambassadors from around the world have said they lack even a budget for basic travel and hospitality.

In an emergency session this week, the temporary Knesset subcommittee on foreign policy headed by Likud's Gideon Sa’ar found that the basis of the ministry’s 2019 budget was “unrealistic” and the Foreign Ministry’s share of the overall state budget had dropped significantly. 

It said this had happened “despite the Foreign Ministry's importance for Israel’s national security in the broader sense, and the political battle in which Israel is entrenched.”