The Arena | Ram Ben-Barak

Ram Ben-Barak

Former deputy chief of Mossad, Director General of the Ministry of Intelligence Services, and Director General of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Served as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. Currently President of Fortify Solutions Inc. and member of the Yesh Atid party.

What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?

The diplomatic service of the State of Israel implements its foreign policy, presents it to the world, and develops political, economic, scientific, cultural, and other types of relationships with other states and international organizations. Several bodies manage Israel's foreign policy, but they all draw upon one significant source of strength - the belief in the righteousness of Israel's cause.
No country in the world faces more challenges in the diplomatic and international arena than Israel. We struggle against many hostile entities, across many international and diplomatic forums, but the strength of our spirit is what enables us to keep on fighting and refuse to surrender in the face of these challenges. 

What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?

Over the past decade we have witnessed the declining impact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has in managing Israel’s diplomatic affairs. The deliberate weakening of the Ministry can be seen a part of a global trend, which is the result of the transition to public diplomacy, especially digital diplomacy. Nonetheless, the distribution of the responsibilities and powers of the MFA among several government ministries and organizations has unfortunately led to the loss of much of the Ministry’s professional knowledge, which is essential in maintaining and upgrading Israel’s diplomatic capabilities in the international arena. Israel must immediately appoint a full time Foreign Minister and give the MFA back its responsibilities and powers.

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

Now, more than ever, Israel has valuable assets to offer the world. Israel can advance its geopolitical interests by using the technologies it develops, which much of the world requires, as leverage. It can provide aid and technology in the fields of water, agriculture, food, science, infrastructure and more. Israel can harness these achievements and the fact that it is a “start-up nation" to promote its interests.

Furthermore, in recent years the Middle East has undergone several significant changes. These have come to align the interests of the State of Israel with several states who have traditionally viewed us as a divisive, rather than a unifying, entity. There is no reason why the State of Israel should not be a major player in these fields in Africa, South America, India, China and the Gulf States. Advancing economic-technological cooperation will enable us to strengthen our relationships in new fields and regions.

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

The central challenge facing Israeli diplomacy, which represents the Government of Israel, is the lack of political initiative. The State of Israel must reassume a proactive, rather than reactive, position. We must present the Middle East, and the world, with a clear and coherent initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the end goal being two states for two people; we must convince the West to truly join the free world’s struggle against the expansionism of the terror state of Iran; and we must make a clear statement regarding the injustices and calamities of the world, such as poverty, refugees, and human rights violations.

 

If Israel does not lead, it will fall back. A policy of inaction, while comfortable and familiar, may eventually lead us down the path towards a binational state, or else one which provides citizens and residents with different sets of rights, which would be an affront to basic the principles upon which the State of Israel was established: Jewish and democratic.

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