Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora, Yuli Edelstein (Likud Yisrael Beitenu) reported to the Knesset Wednesday about his office`s activity during the tenure of the Thirty-Second Government.
Edelstein said that the office was established in 2009, after two failed attempts. The office`s purpose was to take advantage of the potential of cyberspace and to channel the Israeli, Jewish and Diaspora human resources in addition to supporters of Israel around the world, who were not available in the past. The no-less important every day activity is to expose the world to regular life in the country of Israel and to its human story.
”When the office was started many have said it could be used for Israeli public diplomacy but I don`t like using people and haven`t asked them if they wanted to be soldiers for Israeli public diplomacy. The subject of relations with the Diaspora is an important issue of values. The country of Israel is the home of the Jewish people, including those who are not going to join us to live in Israel today or tomorrow. The relations to the Diaspora are an important asset to the country of Israel also in the aspect of the continuing existence of the nation of Israel and developing the identity of the Jewish people. We`ve emphasized the changing of generations within the Diaspora as an important part of the continuation of those relations.
Establishing the office has enabled coming up with projects that couldn`t have been done by a minister in another office, especially regarding the connection to the Jewish communities in the United States. We have conducted quite a few events around the International Holocaust Rememberance Day, both at the UN and the European Parliament, with an impressive turnout of the heads of parliaments. We should also think of what happened and why, and make sure we don`t have things going on today that remind us of the 20`s and 30`s of the last century. And this is in democratic countries, I`m talking about.”
Knesset member Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid) has asked about the redundant work: What public diplomacy topics are handled by the Office of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs that aren`t handled by other offices?
Minister Edelstein: ”This is a question that is asked often. Should I say we never make any duplicities? I`ve been taught not to lie – especially not over a stand in the Knesset. So sometimes there are duplicities. There will always be several bodies; the question, in my opinion, is how to prevent unnecessary arguments over authorities. We can also work unofficially and have volunteers working for us, which is something the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can`t do.”
Knesset member Nachman Shai (Israel Labor Party): I was one of those who have doubted the necessity of the office, and now I want to ask: What is the future of the office and is it going to keep running? We mustn`t go backwards and remove the subject from the public agenda.
Minister Edelstein: ”I think there is still room for improvements, but if you ask me there could be a different structure – we could establish a national public diplomacy authority, for instance. Here, too, there a question: Is there a need for the ministry of communications too, or is an authority enough? But it`s a shame if the office gets shut down. If we must go through a structural change, then we should put some thought into it, because the ministry of Foreign Affairs is not going to be able to work with the volunteers we work with.