The Israeli ambassador to Switzerland, Jacob Keidar, has decided to boycott a conference in Zurich held by the New Israel Fund, after having previously confirmed his attendance. The conference is scheduled to deal with issues such as democracy in Israel.
The conference is scheduled to take place on September 18. A few weeks ago, Keidar was invited to speak at the opening of one of the panels and confirmed his attendance. The panel is entitled: "Is Israeli democracy in danger?" The president of the NIF, Talia Sasson, is scheduled to participate in the panel, along with the former head of the Shin Bet security service Carmi Gillon and Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken.
On Monday, Keidar surprised the organizers and informed them he had changed his mind. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed the report and said the reason for the cancelation was that the conference was organized by the NIF and because of the "provocative" title of the panel.
Nahshon said Keidar decided to cancel his participation on his own and not as a result of any instructions he received from the ministry in Jerusalem. "The ambassador canceled his participation in the event immediately once he realized it was a conference with problematic characteristics."
Keidar's decision is precedent-setting. In December 2015, the deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry, Jeremy Issacharoff, participated in a panel on the subject of the Iranian nuclear program at a New York conference organized by Haaretz and the NIF. Foreign Ministry director general Dore Gold approved Issacharoff's attendance.
In June 2015, the Foreign Ministry tried to cancel a Zurich event by Breaking the Silence, a left-wing veterans organization. The ambassador to Switzerland at the time, Yigal Caspi, filed an official protest with the Swiss Foreign Ministry on the matter. Caspi said the exhibition dealt with defaming Israel and asked to stop the government funding provided by the Swiss government to the exhibition, and to Breaking the Silence in general.
In a response, the NIF said that by backing out of the event, which will be held at the Jewish community center, Keidar was insulting the Jewish community and harming Israeli interests.
The NIF said the cancelation was another instance of the Israeli government dragging behind talkbacks instead of fashioning public opinion. "But this time, it's also humiliating Israel abroad and undermining its foundations as a democratic and tolerant state," said the NIF statement.