Start­ing-up Is­raeli diplo­macy

Is­rael’s for­eign ser­vice needs the type of strate­gic think­ing that can help its lead­ers reach bet­ter de­ci­sions

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - HAG - • ALAN ROSENBAUM

For Ron Prosor, the most im­por­tant out­come of Is­rael’s up­com­ing elec­tions will not be the party that re­ceives the most seats in the Knes­set or the name of the politi­cian who be­comes prime min­is­ter. Rather, for Prosor, head of the Abba Eban In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Diplo­macy at IDC Her­zliya, the most cru­cial con­se­quence of the vot­ing will be the iden­tity of Is­rael’s next for­eign min­is­ter.

Prosor is one of Is­rael’s most sea­soned diplo­mats, hav­ing served as Is­rael’s per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the United Na­tions (2011-2015), Is­raeli am­bas­sador to the United King­dom (2007-2011), and di­rec­tor gen­eral of the For­eign Min­istry (2004-2007). He ex­plains that over the past decade, the For­eign Min­istry and diplo­matic corps have been hin­dered from fully ful­fill­ing their nat­u­ral role in con­duct­ing Is­rael’s for­eign pol­icy. Many of its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties have been as­signed to other gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies, he ex­plains, and its bud­get has been cut. Per­haps most sig­nif­i­cantly, Prosor adds, the gov­ern­ment has not had the ser­vices of a full-time for­eign min­is­ter, as Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has filled that post since 2015.

“A min­istry that is sup­posed to be a sig­nif­i­cant com­po­nent in the na­tional se­cu­rity of the coun­try has been emp­tied of its con­tent,” Prosor says.

Yaniv Co­hen, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Abba Eban In­sti­tute, who has had ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in in­ter­na­tional cor­po­rate law, op­er­a­tions, strat­egy and de­vel­op­ment, ex­plains the im­por­tance of the up­com­ing elec­tion from the stand­point of Is­rael’s for­eign pol­icy.

“The up­com­ing elec­tions are very sig­nif­i­cant and present a ma­jor op­por­tu­nity to make a ba­sic change in Is­rael’s For­eign Ser­vice. This change needs to man­i­fest it­self in two ar­eas. First, Is­rael needs to have a full-time for­eign min­is­ter. Any politi­cian who sees him­self as the next for­eign min­is­ter needs to put this on the agenda.

Sec­ond, af­ter the elec­tion, the next for­eign min­is­ter needs to de­mand – as part of the coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions – that the For­eign Min­istry will re­ceive the proper bud­get and un­dergo nec­es­sary re­forms, in ad­di­tion to a restora­tion of his author­ity in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process. If this is not ar­ranged be­fore­hand, the next for­eign min­is­ter will not suc­ceed.”

The Abba Eban In­sti­tute at IDC’s Lauder School of Gov­ern­ment, Diplo­macy and Strat­egy – which bears the name of one of Is­rael’s most sto­ried and elo­quent diplo­mats – is an apo­lit­i­cal re­search in­sti­tute that has taken the lead in

de­vel­op­ing thought­ful and in­no­va­tive strate­gies to counter the diplo­matic chal­lenges which con­front Is­rael to­day.

“We have crafted a com­plete new per­cep­tion for the Is­raeli For­eign Ser­vice that is based not just on our own per­sonal diplo­matic ex­pe­ri­ence, but is taken from the ex­ten­sive in­ter­na­tional re­search that we have con­ducted of other diplo­matic ser­vices,” says Prosor.

The in­sti­tute’s ac­tiv­i­ties are cen­tered on three main chan­nels: the Diplo­matic Counter-Ter­ror­ism Desk, which coun­ters anti-Is­rael trends through­out the world; the Aca­demic Desk, which uti­lizes the re­search and aca­demic tools of the IDC to in­flu­ence pub­lic opin­ion; and the Diplo­macy 2030 Desk, which is at­tempt­ing to rein­vig­o­rate Is­rael’s For­eign Ser­vice and re­store its stand­ing within the na­tional de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

Lea Land­man, head of the Diplo­macy 2030 Desk, ex­plains that the In­sti­tute’s in­no­va­tive Diplo­matic Ac­cel­er­a­tor, sim­i­lar to ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­grams in the world of hi-tech, ap­plies tools and new means of think­ing to diplo­macy and the For­eign Ser­vice. It is also study­ing how tech­nol­ogy such as big data can be used in diplo­macy to an­a­lyze and pre­dict the ac­tions of coun­tries and dif­fer­ent groups.

PROSOR EX­PLAINS that the For­eign Ser­vice needs to be based on the type of strate­gic think­ing that can help the coun­try’s lead­ers reach bet­ter strate­gic de­ci­sions. “If Is­rael is in the midst of a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion, the For­eign Min­istry needs to be able to pro­vide the prime min­is­ter with a list of al­ter­na­tives and pos­si­ble ac­tions,” he ex­plains. “We can pro­vide good mil­i­tary or in­tel­li­gence re­sponses to Hezbol­lah, but we don’t have any po­lit­i­cal strat­egy in place against them.”

To­day, the For­eign Min­istry has no de­fin­i­tive po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives or mea­sur­able goals, says Prosor. Re­call­ing Golda Meir’s ten­ure as for­eign min­is­ter (1956-1966), when she ini­ti­ated Is­rael’s pol­icy of co­op­er­a­tion with the newly in­de­pen­dent na­tions of Africa and in­creased ties with Latin Amer­ica, Prosor men­tions, “We sent kib­butznikim and moshavniki­m to Africa and South Amer­ica. Our best friends in the United Na­tions are those who we reached, and whom we touched, in their hearts and minds.” Ad­di­tion­ally, he says, Is­rael’s for­eign pol­icy is lack­ing cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tive think­ing.

Prosor adds that Is­rael’s diplo­matic and for­eign pol­icy re­quire­ments are dif­fer­ent from those of other coun­tries, be­cause for Is­rael, se­cu­rity and mil­i­tary con­sid­er­a­tions have al­ways been up­per­most. But, he says, on a diplo­matic level, the world is get­ting more com­pli­cated.

“Be­cause of the force of in­ter­na­tional law, the world com­mu­nity can bring Is­rael to its knees.” Dur­ing his ten­ure as Is­raeli am­bas­sador to the UK, Prosor had to counter the ar­rest war­rants that were is­sued by British courts against Tzipi Livni and oth­ers in the Is­raeli lead­er­ship at the time, due to their roles in Is­rael’s mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Is­rael does not in­vest suf­fi­ciently in its diplo­matic role in the in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment,” he says, “and doesn’t pro­vide enough diplo­matic ‘am­mu­ni­tion’ to its mis­sions around the world.” These fail­ures, he says, stem from the For­eign Min­istry’s re­duced bud­get and in­flu­ence in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process. Co­hen adds, “All of our wars al­ways end with a for­eign pol­icy act. If there is no one in the room with diplo­matic abil­i­ties, in the end, we are hurt­ing our own ef­forts.”

Echo­ing Co­hen’s words about the up­com­ing elec­tion, Prosor says, “This is the op­por­tu­nity to bring up the sub­ject for Is­rael’s next for­eign min­is­ter – in the coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions af­ter the elec­tions – the For­eign Ser­vice, bud­gets, and author­ity, and a place around the ta­ble, must be part of the agenda. It is im­por­tant.”

Re­gard­less of the out­come of the elec­tions, the Abba Eban In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Diplo­macy will con­tinue its ef­forts to im­prove and ad­vance the qual­ity of Is­rael’s diplo­matic ef­forts around the world. Says Ron Prosor, “An ef­fec­tive For­eign Ser­vice is one that knows to pro­mote the ad­van­tages of Is­rael to the world. We can lev­er­age all of the good that is in this coun­try so that Is­rael can be a light to the na­tions, and will be a mem­ber in the com­mu­nity of na­tions. These are not just clichés. It is re­ally pos­si­ble. We want to set up a new and ef­fec­tive For­eign Min­istry that will serve the na­tional se­cu­rity of the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the chal­lenge of the 2000s. Let’s be the Start-Up Na­tion in the world of diplo­macy.”

Let’s be the start-up na­tion in the world of diplo­macy

(Chip East/Reuters)

UNITED NA­TIONS Am­bas­sador Ron Prosor ad­dresses the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly.


YANIV CO­HEN, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Abba Eban In­sti­tute, train­ing IDC stu­dents.

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