The Arena | Zvi Magen

Zvi Magen

Former Israeli ambassador to Russia and Ukraine and Chairman of the "Nativ" Organization. Currently a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and head of its Russia research program. Magen served for over two decades in Israel's Foreign Service. Before that, he served in Military Intelligence, from which he retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?

The main advantage is the efficient mobilization of the diplomatic service to meet Israel’s strategic challenges in the international arena. This includes confronting Israel's regional rivals in the international arena; managing threats to the Jewish people in the Diaspora and assisting Aliyah efforts; efficient mobilization, for the most part, of Jewish communities and organizations around the world; and a willingness to cooperate with, and assist, countries in need of aid. 

Photo: Chen Galili, with permission by the photographer

What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?

The main disadvantage Israeli diplomacy struggles with is the disregard of the diplomatic service by the political establishment, and the diminishing influence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the formulation and conduct of foreign and security affairs. The diplomatic service has been barred from dealing with, planning, and promoting critical aspects of foreign policy and engaging in secret diplomacy. At the end of the day, removing the diplomatic service from areas in which it specializes is detrimental to the effective conduct of Israel's foreign policy. It follows that the stature and work of the members of the diplomatic staff, in Israel and abroad, are also harmed by this.

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

Organizing and leading various international initiatives to manage the challenges Israel faces, all the while taking advantage of crises and managing secret diplomacy. To challenge rival states and organizations, these activities should be based upon cooperation with other states, with the Diaspora, and with additional supportive actors.

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

The primary challenge and threat Israeli diplomacy faces is the subversive activity orchestrated by rival states and organizations abroad, including Iran, the Palestinians, and the BDS campaign. At the end of the day, the Foreign Service is Israel’s first line of defense against the threats it faces. Accordingly, the Service must be organized and mobilized to face such threats, using the various tools at its disposal. All this, of course, should be done in full coordination and cooperation with the other relevant ministries and agencies in the Israeli government.

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