The Arena | Yaniv Cohen

Yaniv Cohen

CEO of the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya. Previously served as head of the American Israeli Friendship League (AIFL) and a senior lawyer of mergers and acquisitions for Nachitz, Brandes, Amir law firm.

What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?

The State of Israel is the most significant boon for its diplomatic service. The dedicated and determined staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs represents the country in over one hundred posts around the globe, and the "product" they are promoting is enjoying unprecedented success.

 

Israel is prosperous, technologically advanced, innovative, respectful of its minorities, works to promote all sectors of its population, and is more egalitarian than ever before. Furthermore, it is a productive and contributing member among the nations. Many countries are beginning to understand just how unique it is. And when you have a winning “product”, the sky is the limit.

What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can and should be the spearhead of Israeli diplomacy, yet as of now it is failing to rise to the occasion. Regretfully, the Ministry plays an insignificant role in the formulation and management of Israel's foreign relations – sometimes being led by other actors, and in other times entirely barred from participating in the process.

 

Some of these difficulties are the result of a deliberate fragmentation of the Ministry and the distribution of its responsibilities among other ministries. Other difficulties stem from internal inefficiency, and a systematic inability to perform its duties and provide political leaders with the required geopolitical returns.

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

The most significant opportunity for Israel nowadays is the current administration in Washington D.C. There has never been an American administration with so many friends of Israel occupying senior positions – all of whom truly believe that the United States’ relationship with the Jewish state is a mutually beneficial strategic relationship. We must take advantage of this rare opportunity and leverage it as effectively as possible.

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

There is a growing schism between the State of Israel and the Jewish communities worldwide – the biggest and most important among them being the Jewish community of the United States. Their worldview, ideology, and religious practices are growing increasingly distant from the State of Israel, its government's actions and the way Israel is depicted. The situation is even worse amongst the younger generation (Generation Y), which is becoming indifferent towards Israel, finding it simply irrelevant to their lives. This troubling trend can still be reversed, but actions must be taken sooner rather than later.

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