The Arena | Amir Oren

Amir Oren

Commentator and broadcaster on security, policy, intelligence, diplomacy and additional topics in the Israeli and international press, as well as creator of documentary movies. During his studies in Washington D.C., he was employed as a local Israeli worker in the Department of Congress Relations at the Israeli Embassy in the USA.

What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?

Israeli diplomacy relies on dedicated and highly skilled diplomatic servicemen and servicewomen. From the early 1970s to the present, I have conducted visits to embassies and consulates abroad - both central and remote, important (to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem) and less important. 
The quality of Israel's diplomatic representatives abroad always stands out, whether young or old, senior or junior, graduates of the diplomatic corps cadet course or those who enter the diplomatic service from other fields. They are familiar with the intricacies of diplomacy, the art of maintaining and nurturing relationships, and political communication and mediation between states. The diplomatic service recruits the correct mixture of different types of staff. This is a resource which cannot be held responsible for how it is put to waste.

Photo: Courtest of Tel Aviv University

What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?

Not one major disadvantage undermines Israeli diplomacy, but rather two. The first is political: Israel's reluctance to engage in any type of political initiative aimed at promoting peace around it, since it means the State will have to pay the price of an agreement. Without such initiative, Israeli diplomats are condemned to constantly repel  the initiatives of other regional actors, so that its foreign service can at most hope for a tie, the absence of defeat – but never claim victory.


The second weakness is systemic: a permanent and crippling inferiority vis-à-vis the Israeli defense establishment in terms of exposure to confidential information, salaries and job prestige. The Government of Israel is continuously harming the esprit de corps of the foreign service, and consequently Israel’s ability to take full advantage of its capabilities and talent. 

What do you think is the most important opportunity Israeli diplomacy currently has?

The seismic changes taking place in Arab states’ approach to Israel, from a sturdy wall of hostility to lukewarm and shaky acceptance, is an unprecedented opportunity for Israeli diplomacy. If we make a solid effort to take advantage of this rare opportunity, the deeply entrenched Arab hostility towards Israel might finally evaporate. However, this requires visionary Israeli political leaders with pure intentions and sound judgment.


Furthermore, a senior member of government must head the foreign service. They must then put all their support behind Israel’s diplomats and truly listen to their professional point of view. This however will require Israeli politicians to overcome the temptation to communicate with foreign leaders directly and through personal associates.

What is the central challenge and/or threat Israeli diplomacy faces?

The greatest challenge Israeli diplomats face is in convincing their superiors that despite all the recent developments, gadgets, and available technological means, man remains superior to technology in conducting diplomacy. Anyone who has served either in headquarters or overseas knows that there is no true substitute for personal relations and for forging new ties that might bear fruit either in the near future or in a decade or two.


That individual knows two leaders meeting to close a deal will not by itself have a long-term positive impact, unless that meeting percolates down the diplomatic structures of both states and is translated into consistent diplomacy. In other words, a glamorous photo-opp of high-level meetings must be backed up with solid diplomatic negotiations and agreements. At the end of the day, without real content, no benefit can rise from the most efficient interpersonal channels.

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