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Pnina Sharvit-Baruch

Senior researcher and head of the Law and Security Program at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS). Retired from the IDF in 2009 at the rank of colonel, after serving as the head of the Department of International Law in the Military Advocate General’s Office. Following her retirement, she taught courses on International law and the Arab-Israeli conflict at Tel Aviv University’s faculty of law.

What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?

The professional diplomatic staff of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs –highly experienced people with a great deal of understanding in international affairs – is the primary resource of Israeli diplomacy.
On the most fundamental level – Israel’s democratic regime allows it to belong to the club of Western nations. Its intimate relationship with the United States is a significant asset, which allows Israel to promote interests through American representatives in various forums.

Photo: Chen Galili, with permission by the photographer

What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?

The biggest disadvantage Israeli diplomacy suffers from is the ongoing occupation and control of the Palestinians, particularly when Israel does not appear to be interested in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This perception greatly damages Israel's international stature.

In addition, over the past few years, the Ministry is being deliberately weakened. Its budget has been slashed, it does not have a full-time Foreign Minister. Furthermore, its responsibilities are being distributed among other ministries or agencies. This trend is grievously harming Israeli diplomacy. Finally, racist or nationalist remarks by Israeli ministers and senior officials also cause significant damage to their country’s diplomatic efforts. 

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

The growing willingness in the Arab World, and particularly on the part of Saudi Arabia, to establish certain ties with Israel. There is also a developing opportunity to improve relations with Africa and South American countries.
The Western World is increasingly internalizing the threat of terror and security concerns, and this can be used to better explain the challenges Israel is facing to the world, and to forge alliances. However, it is very important that Israel carefully avoids associating with far-right organizations - a step which will harm its image in the long run. 

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

A central threat is the association of Israel with regimes that are perceived as nationalist and illiberal. This includes both the close ties with the Trump administration, and relations established with far-right parties in the European Union.

If and when liberal parties regain power in these countries, we run the risk that the new leadership will damage ties with Israel, which they perceive as an ally of the other, illegitimate camp.

An additional threat is the BDS campaign against Israel. Public opinion, particularly among educated youths and young adults, is adversely affected by this campaign, which runs in many academic institutions in Western countries.

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