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PM to address envoys following Amidror rebuke
By HERB KEINON
01/03/2013
Meeting with PM comes after senior security official tells envoys if they can’t represent Israeli policies they should quit or join politics.
 
National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror’s admonition to Israeli ambassadors that they should either faithfully represent Israel’s positions or resign is sure to hang heavy in the room when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the envoys on Thursday.

“This is on everyone’s mind,” one foreign ministry official said Wednesday, predicting that the exchange with Amidror will come up at the meeting with Netanyahu, if questions are allowed.

Amidror on Monday bristled at repeated questions from the envoys – here for their annual end-of-year meeting – about the government’s announcement of new construction beyond the Green Line and development plans in the area known as E1, between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.

These announcements, which triggered an avalanche of international condemnation borne in large part by the envoys, followed the Palestinians’ successful bid on November 29 at the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status.

The decision to announce the construction plans in response to the Palestinian move was taken against the advice of the Foreign Ministry, which held that such a move would be counterproductive since it would deflect the world’s attention away from the Palestinian abrogation of the Oslo Accords and onto the settlement issue.

Ironically, according to diplomatic sources, Amidror also came out in private meetings against the move.

According to Foreign Ministry officials, Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor – who served previously as the foreign ministry’s director-general under Silvan Shalom and whose political worldview is not considered left of center – asked Amidror in a diplomatic fashion about the E1 decision in order to understand the rationale and timing of the move.

When Amidror said that he would take some more questions and answer them all together, a number of other envoys asked for more information about the E1 decision.

Yossi Gal, the ambassador to France and a former director- general of the ministry, asked why the government issued announcements about new building in drips, rather than at one time, since each new announcement elicited a new round of international condemnations.

The ambassador to Prague, Yaakov Levy, then asked another question on the matter in a “sharper manner,” according to one official. His formulation elicited some applause by those sitting around him, applause which one official said was as if to say, “Well said.” Amidror then began to answer before stopping to chastise the envoys.

“I don’t think that in the British Foreign Office they would clap at a question that hinted at criticism of the government’s policy,” he said.

“You would not have a situation where there would be applause in the [US] State Department at a question that hinted at criticism of President Obama’s policies.”

This exchange led Ran Curiel, a ministry deputy director-general, to clarify that the applause was not against the government’s policies, but rather because the question was one that was on the mind of many in the room who had to explain the policy to governments abroad.

“It is possible this reflected a degree of frustration because we want to explain the government’s policies, but are not always given the tools to do so,” he said.

To this Amidror replied, “Gentlemen, don’t get confused.

You are representatives of the government. If this does not suit you, either go into politics or resign. I am a government functionary; the chief of general staff is a government functionary. Our job is to give advice and at the end the leaders make the decisions. If you think there is a problem with the policy, you can express that in closed forums.”

One diplomatic official explained afterward that many of the envoys feel they were not properly briefed on the reason for the E1 decision, the timing of it and what were the overall objectives of the government’s settlement policy. The official said Amidror’s irritated response to questions from the ambassadors was representative of a government attitude that does not put a premium on explaining policy to those who must represent it.

The Prime Minister’s Office had no response to the Amidror incident.
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