Sunday November 23, 2014
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23.11.2014
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Boaz Bismuth

Of diplomats and robots

People who read Yedioth Aharonoth with their morning coffee on Tuesday may have been led to believe that Israeli ambassadors had launched a massive protest on the scale of the Occupy Wall Street movement or the Rothschild Boulevard social movement of 2011. Readers may have imagined that Israeli ambassadors had, at least temporarily, left their posts in foreign capitals in order to pitch tents in protest of their own government's policies. But don't worry, there is very little chance of any of that happening. Not because it is difficult to set up a tent, but rather due to the fact that no actual protest occurred at the event that Yedioth Aharonoth reported on.

So what actually happened? At 6 p.m. on Monday evening, at the annual conference of Israeli ambassadors at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, esteemed National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror provided a comprehensive review of the current diplomatic situation that Israel faces in the world. The ambassadors may all be ambassadors, but they don't all have the same level of access in Jerusalem. Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor, one of Israel's most respected diplomats, has no problem calling the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem or speaking directly with his good friend Yeki (Amidror's nickname) to receive reports and updates. But the seasoned Prosor knows full well that Israel's ambassadors to Bangkok, Addis Ababa and Lima do not enjoy the same privilege. So Prosor asked Amidror about the timing of the decision to announce construction in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, sparking a heated response from Amidror.

Prosor was not the only one to ask Amidror a question. In fact it was another veteran diplomat who asked a very sharp question that drew applause. But in order for the story to become a top headline, it was preferable to use Prosor's well-known name rather than that of another more anonymous diplomat.

It seems that Amidror arrived at the event charged up, making the manner of his response easy to explain. Amidror was right about one thing. Like Israel's diplomats, Amidror is a clerk, albeit a senior one, whose job is to advise, implement and espouse government policy, regardless of politics. It is true that a serving diplomat may criticize the government during a private conversation or intimate dinner gathering, but that is far different from a public protest.

One must understand that many excellent people work in the Foreign Ministry but they are not robots. They are opinionated people who vote. Some are rightists and some are leftists. They can express their personal support of or opposition to the government at the polling booths in the election three weeks from now.

It is legitimate for a newspaper to support one candidate or another. We saw this in the U.S. presidential election last year. What is not legitimate is for a newspaper to inflate or tell only part of a story for political purposes. During their conference, Israel's ambassadors are expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One can assume that they will all show up and that Prosor will continue calling his friend Yeki.

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