The Arena | Yaakov Nagel

Yaakov Nagel

Lieutenant General (res.) and professor at the faculty of Aeronautics and Aerospace Engineering at the Technion in Haifa. Head of the Center for Security Science and Technology (CSST) and a visiting fellow of the FDD Institute in Washington D.C. Nagel served for over 40 years in several Israeli security organizations, including the IDF, the Ministry of Defense, and the Prime Minister's Office. He served as the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister and the acting head of the National Security Council, acting chief of the Research and Development division and deputy head of MAFAT (Research and Development Agency). 

What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?

Israeli diplomacy's greatest advantage is our belief in the righteousness of our cause, and the fact that the individuals who manage Israel's diplomacy in practice believe in the truth of our message. The Israeli truth is often doubted by many worldwide, but as time goes by the naysayers understand that we were right all along. While politics bar them from acknowledging this publicly, this fact deeply affects our interaction with them.


An additional advantage we enjoy is the Israeli willingness to cooperate with other states, including some with whom we do not maintain formal diplomatic relations. Israel's many advantages in technology, security, cybersecurity and additional fields, our robust economy, and our willingness to welcome those interested in forging ties with us, are substantial assets for Israeli diplomacy.


There are many states nowadays - particularly in Africa and the Far East - who have begun to realize both what Israel has to offer, and that it is not available anywhere else. For that reason, they are beginning to see us not as an enemy, but as a state with whom they can foster mutually beneficial relationships.

Photo: Courtest of the author

What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?

Israeli public relations are our Achilles’ heel. We often fail in "marketing" Israel to the world, and it takes us a very long time to formulate messages and to disseminate them. Israel simply does not successfully convey its messages through diplomatic channels. Unfortunately, since several official bodies simultaneously distribute different messages, no unified Israeli voice exists. We are very successful in our actions in the field, but tend to lose the media war - sometimes for subjective reasons, but sometimes due to lack of professionalism in the field of public relations.

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

The most important opportunity Israeli diplomacy currently has is conveying our message to states which we previously could not reach. In recent times, Israel has been drawn closer to states with whom we have had no diplomatic ties, due to a common threat - Iran. These are primarily the moderate Sunni states, but also in the Far East, states such as South Korea, Vietnam and Japan, now understand what they stand to gain from improving relations with us. As I see it, we now have a rare opportunity - primarily with the moderate Arab Sunni States, whose interests and threat assessment now align with our own - to truly get our message through.

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

The primary threat we face is the attempt by some of our enemies to shift their campaign against Israel to the international and diplomatic battlefield. Some of them - particularly the Palestinian Authority - understand that they can no longer fight us as they have in the past, including through terror (they are not interested in a reasonable peace agreement). For this reason, they are now trying to undermine us in the diplomatic arena. I am referring to attempts to undermine Israel’s right to exist, and international campaigns such as the BDS.


These organizations lead a sophisticated propaganda campaign which runs on foreign funds. They aren’t bothered with the facts, and unfortunately enjoy a near automatic majority in international forums such as the United Nations. The risk is that their lies and falsehoods will gradually be accepted by the international community as the truth, which could then threaten our relations with certain states and potentially harm the Israeli economy. Although the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and other organizations are fighting back at these campaigns, this is not the sort of  fight which Israel excels at, and it represents a real danger.

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