The Arena | Herb Keinon

Shimrit Meir

CEO of "Link Online" - the center for strategic communications in the Middle East, which runs Israeli projects intended for the Arab media consumer. Previously worked as a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs in Galei Tzahal (Military Radio) and has held several positions in the Middle East news desks of Channels 1 and 2.

What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?

The greatest advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys is of course the close relationship with the current American administration, which greatly empowers Israel. It is important we make the most of the strategic benefits offered by this administration, because this is one of the most unusual and unpredictable American presidencies in history, and no one knows what will happen tomorrow. 
Furthermore, the Palestinian issue is losing its centrality and importance on the international agenda. The deeply entrenched paradigm which claims that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a precondition to normalization with the Arab states and progress in relations with other states, is increasingly being challenged. This seismic change may enable Israel to promote true bilateral ties with the Arab states, in contrast to the current situation where the Palestinian issue is present in any negotiations. This trend will only grow stronger should the President of the United States, Donald Trump, present a peace plan which Israel will accept but the Palestinians will reject. 

Photo: Courtesy of the author

What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?

Israeli diplomacy's greatest disadvantage is the reduction of resources and the deliberate weakening of the Israeli diplomatic service. It is somewhat difficult to be taken seriously by foreign statesmen when they know you represent a debilitated entity, and that your superiors may overrule whatever agreement you reach with them. 

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

Speaking directly to the public, and not merely to governments - particularly in the Arab states. Our embassies in Egypt and Jordan are occasionally forced to work outside a physical and political bunker. Yet the discourse in social networks is free and open, and if we utilize the utmost all of platforms available to us, we can engage in an intensive dialogue with the general public in Arab states, as well as political and economic elites and public opinion leaders.

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

In the short term, if the United States does indeed withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran,* we are likely to see an Iranian-Russian-European campaign, perhaps with quiet support of critical voices from the previous US administration, aimed at isolating the United States and Israel and depicting  them as warmongers who threaten world peace and peace in the Middle East.
This will not be pleasant, and Israel and its diplomatic service would do well to prepare in advance strong arguments and constructive suggestions to fix the state of affairs following the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement.

 

* This piece was written before the United States withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018.

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