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Herb Keinon

Herb Keinon is The Jerusalem Post's veteran diplomatic correspondent. He has been at the paper for 32 years, 18 of them covering the diplomatic beat.

What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?

The main strength is the ability to leverage Israel's competitive advantages in technology, agriculture, and weapons development into diplomatic currency then used to further relations with countries whose default mode might not be to have close ties with Jerusalem.

India, for instance, is a country with some 175 million Muslims, which is heavily dependent for energy on the Muslim world, yet still wants intimate ties with israel. Why? Because of what Israel can offer. Getting that message across – convincing others of how Israel serves their interests – is a key strength of Israeli diplomacy.

Photo: Courtesy of the author

What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?

The main weakness of Israeli diplomacy is internal – inside Israel. The Foreign Ministry has failed to get its voice heard around the table where key decisions are made to the same degree that the voice of the Mossad and Military Intelligence is heard. The diplomatic angle – how policies will be received abroad, what are the diplomatic ramifications of certain policies and steps – still does not receive the same amount of attention in decision-making forums as it should. This is a weakness, since diplomacy does not only begin at the water’s edge. 

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

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are doing for diplomacy what Amazon has done to shopping: changed it completely. Digital diplomacy provides once-unheard of opportunities for Israel to get its message across to populations and groups which it would never have had the chance to reach in the past. Digital diplomacy plays to Israel's strengths, since it favors the creative and innovative – two characteristics Israelis are blessed with.

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

The biggest challenge for Israeli diplomacy is to not allow the country's detractors to dictate the conversation; not let all discussion about Israel – either in foreign ministries or television networks around the world – begin and end with the Palestinians, Iran, Gaza, and Syria. There is an Israel beyond the conflicts, and one of the biggest and unending challenges for diplomats is to make sure that Israel is both known and made relevant to people around the world.

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