Israeli Diplomats’ Resignations Unlikely to Spur Wider Protest, Former Envoys Say
Israel’s ambassadors to Canada and France resigned in response to new government, but both envoys were political appointees
Two Israeli ambassadors’ decisions to resign in response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government are unlikely to snowball into a wider diplomatic protest or affect the operational functioning of the Foreign Ministry, veteran former diplomats have said.
Israel’s Ambassador to Canada Ronen Hoffman on Sunday announced his resignation from his position due to opposition to the Netanyahu-led government. Hoffman had previously served as a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, representing the current Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party from 2013 to 2015.
“With the transition to the new government and to different policy in Israel, my personal and professional integrity has compelled me to request to shorten my post and return to Israel this summer,” Hoffman posted on Twitter.
Hoffman’s decision comes weeks after Israel’s envoy to France Yael German also announced her intention to step down. German, who had also served as a lawmaker for Yesh Atid and health minister in the cabinet, said that the new government is endangering Israel’s democracy with its “extremist views.”
There were very few resignations of diplomats until not long ago. … It was not the conventional Israeli habit.
Dr. Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry who served as a diplomat for almost 30 years, told The Media Line that the rapid successive resignations were indicative of a “dramatic change” in the way foreign service is carried out.
“There were very few resignations of diplomats until not long ago,” Liel said. “Usually political appointees continue with the following government. I think it might be a new type of culture in our diplomacy that a political ambassador puts the keys on the table when the people who appointed him leave power. It was not the conventional Israeli habit.”
Liel added that he considered Hoffman a close friend and noted that the two had frequently worked together in a professional capacity in the past.
Although German and Hoffman’s resignations followed one another quickly, Liel does not believe that the move signals a wider trend, as there are a limited number of politically appointed diplomats.
But he does think it will put significant pressure on the remaining political appointees to follow suit.
“It will put a lot of pressure on our New York Consul General Asaf Zamir,” Liel predicted. “It is expected now after German and Hoffman did it that he will resign, too.”
Zamir was formerly a tourism minister and a Knesset member representing Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party; he was appointed consul by Lapid.
Even if Zamir does decide to resign, Liel does not expect that it would have a significant impact, especially since the new government will likely quickly find replacements.
“It’s a personal decision of these political appointees,” Liel said. “I’m sure the government is quite happy about it because they can appoint [their own choices], and the Foreign Ministry is also probably quite happy because they hope that professionals might get these positions again.”
They were political appointments. It’s a personal decision. These two were lawmakers and members of a party that is now in the opposition.
Likewise, Dr. Oded Eran, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies and a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and the European Union, said that the decisions by German and Hoffman decision to resign stem first and foremost from their being politicians.
“They were political appointments,” Eran told The Media Line. “It’s a personal decision. These two were lawmakers and members of a party that is now in the opposition.”
Like Liel, he also agreed that the move would not pose a problem for the Foreign Ministry. Assigning politicians diplomatic roles is problematic, however, according to him.
Currently, Israeli law stipulates that politicians may appoint up to 11 ambassadors and consuls general of their choice.
“There is a quota of political appointments to diplomatic posts,” Eran affirmed. “These appointees are not professional [diplomats] from within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I don’t think this is a good arrangement but it is what it is.”