Missing: An Israeli Foreign Minister

Nowhere in the world except Israel is there a foreign minister who every single day undermines the status of his or her country in the family of nations.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Credit: Reuters

We have a government. There is a prime minister, a defense minister, a public security minister and a justice minister. There is public debate over how they do their jobs, the positions they take, their personalities. But the State of Israel, which is engaged in a war at home, does not, simply does not, have a foreign minister.

The title foreign minister is no empty title. The foreign minister is the person in charge of Israel’s foreign relations and of presenting to Israel what the world has to say. That is the foreign minister’s contribution to the decision-making process.

The defense minister in tense times sees the array of military forces, the quality of the IDF’s training and its ability to be victorious or restrained. The foreign minister brings other considerations to the cabinet table, diplomatic ones – for example, why an aggressive move could bring on the outside world’s antagonism – and is by definition at the moderate end of the spectrum of any government. The prime minister has to decide between security and foreign affairs considerations. David Ben-Gurion always strove to give them equal weight in his decisions.

But we have no foreign minister. Our foreign minister receives the results of a public opinion survey examining the relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel and immediately puts the pedal to the metal to heat up the atmosphere, which is charged enough without him. This atmosphere is harmful not only to Israel’s self-image, but to its status in the eyes of the world.

We may be able to live with a passive foreign minister, one who has given up on real advancement of Israel’s position in the international arena. We may be able to live with a foreign minister who sees himself as the militant leader of a populist party. But nowhere in the world except Israel is there a foreign minister who every single day undermines the status of his or her country in the family of nations, does this consistently and tirelessly and even achieves substantial results.

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