The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee`s Subcommittee for Foreign Policy, Public Relations, and the Political Struggle discussed on Monday the status of the Foreign Ministry in light of the decentralization of its authorities and the cut in its budget.
”While the State of Israel is fighting on the diplomatic front against the boycott and the nuclear agreement with Iran, the government is cutting more and more of the Foreign Ministry`s authorities,” MK Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitenu) said during the meeting.
”The prime minister is acting in the US against the nuclear deal with Iran, but at the same time he decides to close three Israeli missions there,” the former Foreign Minister stated. ”It is unclear what the government`s diplomatic considerations are and on what basis they make diplomatic decisions there. While the budgets of all the other government offices are increased, it has been decided to cut the Foreign Ministry`s budget despite the fact that the diplomatic challenges are only intensifying.”
Representatives of the Treasury said the cut in the Foreign Ministry`s budget was equal to the cut that was decided on in all the other government offices. Moreover, they said, it has been decided to increase the budget for special Foreign Ministry activities abroad. The government, they said, has decided to close seven Israeli missions abroad, rather than the 10 which were supposed to be closed for economic reasons.
In response, a Foreign Ministry representative said ”Israel has only 100 fully operational embassies, when there are 180 countries in the world. In most embassies there are only two professional diplomats, rather than at least four. This is a chronic malfunction in the Foreign Ministry`s functionality abroad. The cut in the Foreign Ministry`s budget is particularly severe and difficult – far more than what the Treasury claims. There are cases in which we activate a `roaming ambassador`, who sits in Israel but is in charge of nine missions. This is simply an unprofessional joke.”
”When Iran decided to change its policy and operate in a more diplomatic manner, it increased its Foreign Ministry`s budget by 20%,” the representative told the committee.
”Iran currently operates 167 embassies – 67 more than Israel. This is leading us to a diplomatic failure. Later we will all have to deal with a bad nuclear deal and a boycott of Israel. We are forced to send cadets abroad merely four months after the cadets` course ends. This is sheer recklessness. Someone has decided to destroy Israel`s Foreign Service because some people do not wish to hear our professional opinion. We have a responsibility, but zero authority.”
A representative of the National Security Council supported the Foreign Ministry`s argument, saying ”a weak Foreign Ministry hurts Israel`s national security. All of the Foreign Ministry`s problems for the next five years can be solved with the budget of just two helicopters.”
Subcommittee chairman Michael Oren (Kulanu) noted that as a former Israeli ambassador in Washington he was ”quite familiar with the crucial work of the Foreign Ministry,” adding that ”part of Israel`s national security hinges on the Foreign Ministry`s ability to operate. We must reexamine the budgets that are being transferred to it and see how we can strengthen Israel`s diplomacy. Nonetheless, the Ministry must examine its workforce array and have it correspond with the diplomatic reality we are currently dealing with in the world.”