uploaded : Sunday 28th Jul 2002 at 10:15
by : Jock Falkson
The Jerusalem Post devoted considerable space to the proposed appointment of Minister of Trade, Dalia Itzik, as Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. Aside from publishing opinion pieces and numerous letters, the Post itself railed, in editorials, against this job-for-pals political appointment by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Chief Editor Bret Stephens avoided the word nepotism in his editorials. But this writer has no need to be constrained by political correctness. So I charge that this is clearly crony nepotism.
One would have thought that Peres was fully alive to the need for Israel’s ambassadors and consuls to have fluent English language skills. This is a fundamental expertise needed by Israel’s representatives to effectively present Israel's standpoint in the PR battle which has become so crucial a weapon in winning hearts and minds. Specifically on world TV networks.
To think that Peres would ignore this aspect in appointments of such critical importance, leaving Israel virtually speechless in the world’s media, is bad enough. To think that Itzik too does not understand that her language and diplomatic skills are totally inadequate to do the PR job Israel needs, is another head-shaking disappointment. Furthermore her support for the Sharon government has never been unconditional.
In recent years, defending Israel against its all too numerous enemies has assumed mandatory proportions. Yet latter day governments have appointed lack-luster, tongue-tied party hacks, or retired military personnel, to positions requiring the greatest PR experience and ability. With the result our Foreign Service representatives abroad is filled with media dullards. Examples:
Yehuda Lancry (Likud), who made little difference if any during his 10 years as Knesset Member, was rewarded with the plum job of Ambassador to the United Nations. Next to Washington, our top diplomatic post. Regardless of the fact that his English is slow, labored and uninspiring.
Lancry’s infrequent speeches in Ivrit in the Knesset were a bore. To listen to him responding to vigorous attacks by Palestinian and the other full-time haters of Israel at the UN, is a stomach crunching pain. As a public relations defender of Israel in the world’s most important forum, Lancry is a failure. If his paper work and negotiating skills are above par let him be used in this capacity behind the scenes.
But the person to stand up and speak for Israel in the UN and on the world’s TV networks must be of the caliber of former luminaries like Abba Eban, Avraham Harman, Eliyahu Eilat, Chaim Hertzog and Binyamin Netanyahu. Nothing less will do. “They exist in abundance in the business, media, and academic sectors. It’s time to mobilize them” editorialized The Jerusalem Post, July 26.
As a media defender of Israel in this top post, Lancry has been a total failure.
David Ivry, Ambassador to Washington, probably Israel’s most important post, recently completed his term. A former Commander of the Israel Air Force, he was the only Air Force official to become Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. There can be no doubt that Ivry was a significant force and negotiator behind the scenes in Washington.
It is reported that everyone liked Ivry, but he preferred playing the role of the invisible man. In an interview with Israel TV on his return home he was asked about this. He agreed he never sought public or TV appearances and worked best out of the limelight. At one point New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman sarcastically asked Prime Minister Sharon whether Israel actually had an ambassador in Washington!
Thank goodness for Ambassador Alon Pinkas, Consul General of Israel in New York, who, as a public defender, has been decidedly above average.
As a public relations defender of Israel in the world’s most important capital, Ivry was a total failure.
Lt.-Col. (res.) Tzvi Shtauber, ambassador in London, a former diplomatic advisor to Ehud Barak, completes his two-year term in October. Here’s what Moshe and Ruth Cohn wrote about him in a letter to the Jerusalem Post, July 23:
“We squirmed as the Israeli ambassador, Tzvi Shtauber, read out his speech, not daring to lift his eyes from his papers and speaking in platitudes. The British media bewail the lot of the Palestinian Arabs and condemn our soldiers as they try to keep us safe. The pattern will be repeated if Itzik succeeds Shtauber”.
As a public relations defender of Israel in the world’s second most important capital, Shtauber is a total failure.
Israel has a law (or understanding) entitling the ruling party/coalition to designate up to 10 appointees as ambassadors. The unashamed reason is to reward party hacks and apparatchiks for past loyalties.
In the PR age of dominance by TV media, bad or non-existent PR can seriously harm a nation like Israel. We can advance when our PR achieves the objectives of our nation. Like it or not, successful PR is essential to this process. Only top caliber PR people can win the minds and hearts of men to our cause.
This requires that our ambassadors must be the best persons to carry this onerous responsibility. He who meets this criterion should get the job. The days are over for rewarding party loyalists with ambassadorships at the cost of the good of the nation.
Such an appointee was Shaul Amor, Social Worker, former Mayor of Migdal Ha’emek. A lacklustre Likud MK who believed he was entitled to better things, he decided to run for President against incumbent Ezer Weizman. Although supported by the Likud, he lost 63 votes to 49. Disheartened he sought to have his wife appointed mayor of Migdal Ha’emek. In this too, incumbent Eli Barda frustrated him.
To ease the importuning of the good and faithful servant, Netanyahu appointed Amor ambassador to Brussels, capital not only of Belgium but of the European Union! No one knew better that Netanyahu what a public relations disaster Shaul Amor would be. Yet that did not stop him donating this prize to a nonentity.
As a public relations champion of Israel in this crucial political and diplomatic arena, Amor has been an utter failure.
Calev Ben David put it well in his op-ed piece in The Jerusalem Post, July 25.
“A mere adequate command of English is not sufficient to serve as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, especially when one is constantly called upon by a hostile British media to defend Israel. Having an ambassador with the right accent in the UK would be a big plus – just as, alas, having the wrong accent in Israel is a big minus.”
Dalia Itzik does not have the rhetorical skills nor the fortitude to give as well as she would have to take from BBC interviewers like Tim Sebastian (Hard Talk) and others. Nor the oratorical capability to inspire the crowds who come to Jewish or Zionist events.
She should look elsewhere for “her time” out because she will be a failure in London. A failure neither Israel nor Itzik can afford. And which the UK will not take in good grace.
The 10 ambassadorial appointees should be reserved for the very best people in the most important Foreign Service posts abroad, even at the expense of promotions within the professional diplomatic corps. Their curriculum too, must be changed to include the acquisition of PR skills, especially in front of the cameras.
Jock Falkson is a commentator on Middle East affairs based in Israel.
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