In 2000 Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak (today’s Defense Minister) orchestrated a sudden withdrawal from Lebanon in compliance with UN Resolution 245 (1978). Upon completion, PM Barak stated:
“From now on, the government of Lebanon is accountable for what takes place within its territory, and the Lebanese and Syrian governments are responsible for preventing acts of terror or aggression against Israel, which is from today deployed within its borders.”
As the attacks from Lebanon were playing out this week, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Head of Opposition (former Foreign Minister) Livni were keynote speakers at the 4th annual Medical Convention in Jerusalem.
Ayalon recapped the development of the fight against the Jewish State over Israel’s 63 year modern existence: It started with a military tactic, changed to an economic one (the great boycotts of the 70s / oil embargo), continued with a terror campaign and is now attempting to delegitimize the very essence of Israel’s existence. “There are no more boundaries,” said Ayalon and warned: “Today, Israel is the target. Very quickly it will spill over to other countries.”
Ayaon recalled the Second Intifada that started ten years ago. “Approximately 1,000 Israelis were murdered in terror attacks and more than 6,000 wounded during less than two years. We continued the daily life with determination and resilience,” said Ayalon. To put things in perspective, he added, one thousand dead Israelis are the equivalent of 50,000 dead Americans had it happened in America.
Ayalon emphasized our main strengths: our ability to protect ourselves, and the fact we do not need to rely on others for our protection, US soldiers for example.
Something bothered me, though. Ayalon ascended to his job after Liberman’s party received a greater number of mandates than anyone had expected and joined Netanyahu’s coalition government, guaranteeing Liberman a certain number of ministerial positions. Ayalon, the former Ambassador to the USA, was the most qualified candidate for the position of Liberman’s deputy. (Liberman became the Foreign Minister.)
Today, almost two years in his position, Ayalon is talking about the “beginning of development of a long range strategy to brand Israel to the world.” Branding Israel beyond the “conflict” – the attempt to annihilate the Jewish State – has been Livni’s main project as the Foreign Minister, for which she managed to attract major budgets into the Foreign Ministry.
Since the professional staff at the ministry does not change every election, clearly there are those who remember this “long range strategy.” I do from the various conferences and press events I attended at the time. Progress and innovation have not reached the Foreign Ministry. Instead, they revert to previously tried and tested ideas that proved ineffective.
To brand Israel effectively, all one needs to do is double or triple the Tourism Ministry’s annual budget. They have proven time and again they can conduct memorable, repeated campaigns that rejuvenate themselves and achieve sustainable international success.
Indeed, there are numerous (some say hundreds to 1,200) public servants without an appropriate position, many from within the Foreign Ministry. This makes the competition for every available position fierce. Rather than “let the best person win,” many other considerations enter the picture, including the threat to sue if one does not get one’s wishes.
A former diplomat in the Foreign Ministry’s service currently serves as an “Adviser to the Foreign Minister.” He recently returned from a tour in America promoting his Bedouin (non-Jewish) loyalty to Israel. That was the sole selling point, since there was lack of any other substance. Even the multiple articles, from the Jewish Journal in Los Angeles to the Jerusalem Post, were very similar, promoting the self rather than the substance. Substance, we remember, is not the glorification of the individual but the fight for Israel’s legitimate claim to exist as a Jewish Homeland.
The Foreign Ministry has in its arsenal very capable people and those its managers want to highlight and promote. The opportunity to utilize the strengths of the Bedouin Diplomat became apparent two weeks ago and again today.
An illegal Bedouin settlement in the Negev (a “village” that came into being from nothing) has been demolished after repeated Court orders. It is the same Court that protects individual and minority rights more than anywhere else in the world, a legacy of Chief Justice Aharon Barak who used the Court as a laboratory ignoring the costs to Israel. It is the very same Court that has contributed greatly to the process of delegitimization of the Jewish state.
Some 300 police officers were needed to vacate the structures and demolish them, at a cost of almost a million dollars. As the operation concluded, a press conference not hastily arranged announced that rebuilding commences immediately with funds from various human right organizations. Israel was immediately attacked around the world for its “ethnic cleansing.”
The Bedouin were nomads. To this very day there is a clan with sheep not far away from where I am staying in the center of Israel. The Bedouin migrate constantly, from Africa via Egypt into Israel and beyond. In the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt), they smuggle people, drugs, ammunition, weapons of war and almost everything possible.
In Israel, there are several sedentary Bedouin communities, such as Rahat in the Negev and others in the Galilee.
The Bedouin of the Negev have learned from the Palestinians, and now claim the Negev and the Galilee to be theirs. They are the “legitimate owners,” and we will soon hear of Israel’s “Occupation” of their lands. As I walked the fields where the local Bedouin allow their sheep to pastor, I imagined what would happen if I declared the area mine and started building. The land is worth millions, so why not just claim and create evidence on the ground?
Today another 250 police officers and some 40 inspectors were necessary to re-demolish the very same location, and again a promise was made to start rebuilding without delay. One commentator called it a “cat and mouse game.”
I call it differently: It is an obvious effort to attack Israel, doubt its legitimacy and use it as a cause celebre to announce to the world that Israel is engaged in “Ethnic Cleansing.” The highly effective “Israel is Apartheid” mantra is thus reinforced time and again.
Without a concrete policy toward illegal construction and its uniform enforcement, Israel becomes a lawless land. The application of any such policy must be equally applied toward mainstream (Jewish) “settlements” as well as to the minority, be it Arab, Bedouin, Druze or others. Allowing anyone to walk into an area and claim it is pure folly and foolishness.
Now is the time to utilize the Foreign Ministry’s new “Pretty Boy Bedouin Face” for a mission explaining Israel. Loyalty is measured in a time of need, and clearly this is one such instance. But I remember the “diplomat’s” refusal to discuss the Bedouin of the Negev less than a month ago in Los Angeles. His book, his own personal history and his future ambitions, well, that was a different story altogether.
The Foreign Ministry is the de facto Public Face of Israel. There is another ministry (Public Diplomacy and the Diaspora), but it does not have presence in each country around the world, a huge mechanism overseas and in Jerusalem, with abilities and egos and personal needs as great as its potential and promise. To craft long-term strategies, and not regurgitate old ones that did not work, the Ministry should take a close look inside, and start with one face, the Bedouin “Adviser” to the Minister.
In the meantime, the Minister for Minority Issues has refused to be interviewed on Israel’s radio regarding the Bedouin village demolition. It is difficult to reconcile rhetoric with reality.
The true “settlements” obvious to anyone driving throughout the country are those in Arab, Bedouin and Druze villages and cities. These seem to multiply without any planning or end in sight. A law-abiding country that does not enforce its laws is doomed. Israel must take a very strong stance, whatever the short-term cost.
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