Friday, October 19, 2012

Israeli Foreign Ministry Plays Politics With Livni Visit

During a meeting with then incoming deputy consul general of the Mid-Atlantic region, Elad Strohmayer, I suggested some Israeli speakers that it would be good for the Foreign Ministry to bring over. I wanted Americans to meet Israelis other than retired Generals. One of my suggestions was Shelly Yachimovich, a current member of the Knesset and leader of the Labor party. I felt that she would appeal to feminists due to her long history of fighting for women's rights.

Strohmayer said, "That will not happen. She is the leader of the opposition."

Initially, I recalled the old joke -"Thank God for the Arabs. Without them, the Israelis would kill each other".

Upon reflection, Stohmayer's comment made me realize that human rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz and many other pro-Israel supporters are correct to argue that the foreign ministry must become non-political. The non-political advocates want the Israeli Foreign Ministry removed from the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office to the President's Office.

The Foreign Ministry should not be just promoting the visits of Israeli dignitaries from the prime minister's own party while ignoring those from rival parties. But that is exactly what happened recently at the Israeli Consulate of the Mid-Atlantic Region.

The American-Israel Friendship League brought Deputy Knesset Speaker Shlomo Molla, who is Ethiopian, to Philadelphia in September The local Israeli consulate press officer Michelle Miller, put out several press releases, including one on August 28, announcing the visit of Molla, who is a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party. They arranged interviews for him and highlighted his visit in several of their weekly newsletters.

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in Philadelphia this week to speak at a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces Gala. This worthwhile organization provides soldiers everything from medical care to college tuition. There is nothing more essential to Israeli interests than a strong military.

It has been a long time since a person of Livni's stature has come to Philadelphia. Besides almost becoming Israeli Prime Minister, Livni descends from Israeli aristocracy. Her parents were freedom fighters of the Irgun, the pre-state paramilitary organization. Israeli officials usually only stop in New York, Washington, or Los Angeles.

Yet, I heard nothing about her visit from the Israeli consulate. Her visit  to the area was also not mentioned in the weekly newsletter of the consulate.

I have to attribute this glaring oversight of the Israeli consulate to the press speculation that she might run against current Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. The consulate's neglect hurts the State of Israel. If the consulate had arranged interviews etc, Livni would have presented a much different image of Israel and Israeli politicians than most Philadelphians typically see.

I did contact the consulate to ask what happened, but I have not heard from anyone.

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