Head of “The Movement” party, Zionist Union. Previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, Minister in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians, and in several other senior positions. Currently a member of the Foreign Affairs and Security committee and head of the sub-committee for legal warfare.
What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?
Israel’s strong and enduring relationship with the United States gives it a significant advantage. It is important not only to us, but to many other countries as well. Furthermore, its status as a technological leader has created a demand for its abilities in many fields and regions around the world. This enables Israel to leverage its technological advantage for advancing its interests in other areas.
Photo: Louise Green, courtesy of the author
What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?
I don’t believe in good diplomacy, so much as in good policy. Israeli diplomacy serves to advance the interests of the State of Israel, but it cannot succeed without a clearly defined government policy, or when being guided by bad policy.
In addition, over the past few years, the Israeli foreign service has been dismantled; its responsibilities distributed among several other ministries and agencies. Instead of focusing our diplomatic efforts on urgent matters at hand, efforts and resources are being divided for political gain. This is extremely distressing.
What do you think is the most important opportunity Israeli diplomacy currently has?
The most important opportunity policymakers face today is the moderate Sunni states’ understanding that Iran, not Israel, is the enemy. They have become increasingly receptive to the idea of deepening ties with us, in order to counter Iran’s activities in the region. But there is a major caveat: most, if not all of them, link warming relations with Israel to its willingness to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.
The ability to enlist the support of the current US administration in advancing our interests, alongside the willingness of Arab countries to forge a strategic alliance with us against Iran, is an opportunity that will probably never present itself again. The State of Israel now has a double incentive to promote a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the Palestinians, which has always been in its national interest.
What is the central challenge and/or threat Israeli diplomacy faces?
The Government of Israel consistently links its ideology of maintaining control over Greater Israel and the settlements – which is deemed illegitimate by the international community – and Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, which is accepted by nearly all its members. The longer we refrain from severing the ties between the two, the more we increase the risk of the world gradually accepting them. Such a development would harm the legitimacy of the State of Israel to exist and its right to self defense.
Finally, another threat is the growing success – which I hope will end – of international campaigns questioning Israel’s right to exist and defend itself.