Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely swept into her new office on Thursday using religious-based arguments and telling ministry employees all of the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews.
Hotovely, who served as deputy transportation minister in the last government, reworked one of the slogans her previous ministry made well known: “On the road, don’t be right, be smart.”
For many years, she said, Israel’s diplomats have tried to be smart, rather than right.
“Many times it seems that in our international relations, more than emphasizing the rightness of our cause, we are asked to use arguments that play well diplomatically,” she told ministry employees. “But at a time when the very existence of Israel is being called into question, it is important to be right.”
Hotovely’s words were also broadcast to Israel’s 106 representations abroad.
“The international community deals with considerations of justice and morality,” she said. “We need to return to the basic truth of our right to this land.”
Hotovely quoted the late journalist and settlement leader Uri Elitzur as saying that for the last 40 years, while the Palestinians were demanding their lands, Israel responded that: “We have strategic interests and security concerns.”
Those arguments, she said, were the arguments of a robber.
“If I wear your coat because I’m cold, and I can prove pragmatically and analytically that it really is cold for me, the world will ask a primitive and analytic question: Who does the coat belong to? In this context, it is important to say that this coat is ours, this country is ours, all of it. We didn’t come here to apologize for that.”
Hotovely said the world understands Israel’s security needs, but arguments based on justice and morality always trump those dealing with security concerns.
She also quoted from an interview former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami gave following the breakdown of the Camp David talks in 2000. Ben-Ami, who was Labor’s foreign minister under Ehud Barak, said it was impossible for him to shake the impression that more than the Palestinians want a solution to the conflict, they want to put Israel in the defendant’s dock.
“More than they want a state of their own, they want to throw us out of our own. In the deepest sense possible this is a negative ethos,” she said, quoting Ben-Ami. “That is why, as opposed to the Zionists, they are unable to compromise, because they don’t have an image of a society in the future for which it is worth compromising.”
The deputy minister ended her comments by quoting from Rashi, the famed medieval commentator, on the first line of the Torah. The reason the Torah began with the story of creation, Rashi explained, was so that when the world would call Israel robbers for having stolen the Land of Israel from others, the Jews would be able to answer that the land belongs to God, and that he gave it to whom he desired.
“If the Jews were convinced in the righteousness of their path, and that is their land, they would manage with the world,” she said, quoting Rabbi Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi, one of the leaders of French Jewry in the last century.
Hotovely told the workers, many of them demoralized that various aspects of Israel’s diplomacy has been parceled off to different ministries, that she would fight to help the ministry restore its status as the central arm of Israeli diplomacy.
Hotovely’s comments came the same day that the French newspaper Le Figaro reported that a proposed French UN Security Council draft resolution, being drawn up with New Zealand, sets an 18-month deadline for completion of negotiations leading to a Palestinian state.
The Guardian reported that leaking the details of the draft now “appears designed to put pressure on Netanyahu’s new right-wing government – in which opponents of a two-state solution hold prominent positions – to return to talks.”
President Reuven Rivlin, who in the past was a prominent opponent to a two-state solution, met Thursday with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini
and reiterated the commitment Netanyahu made a day earlier to a two-state solution.
Israel knows the importance of the role Europe takes in trying to bring the 150-year-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to an end, he said.
Rivlin said he was confident the conflict could be overcome with the help of sincere elements from the Western world, but emphasized that in the final analysis, it can be resolved only by an agreement reached by the two parties themselves.
Referring to Netanyahu’s comments a day earlier, Rivlin said all of Israel and “the whole world” heard it.
Mogherini was accompanied during her two-day visit by Fernando , the EU’s new envoy to the Middle East Peace Process. Unlike former EU envoys who traveled back and forth from Europe, Gentilini is expected to be permanently based in Israel.Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.
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