Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is enjoying a greater level of cooperation today with the Arab world than it has ever had in its history, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a pre-Rosh Hashana toast in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Netanyahu said that cooperation today with countries in the Arab world is actually greater than it was when Jerusalem signed agreements with Egypt and Jordan.
In practice, he said, there is cooperation in “different ways” and “at different levels,” though it is not public.
And even though it is not out in the open, “it is much larger than any other period in Israel’s history. It’s a huge change.”
Netanyahu, who also serves as the country’s foreign minister, advanced the annual toast because he will be traveling to Latin America and New York next week, returning just hours prior to the beginning of Rosh Hashana on September 20.
Netanyahu, who was particularly sanguine about Israel’s standing in the world, said that Israel today is “in a different place” than before.
He said the alliance with the United States is “stronger than ever” and that there are also strong ties with Europe, with openings being made in Eastern Europe.
“There are great breakthroughs on all the continents, our return to Africa, and the expansion of our technical assistance there is leading to a great deal of interest on the continent,” Netanyahu said. He added that important breakthroughs were made this past year in Asia as well – in China, India and Japan – as well as with Muslim countries there, especially Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which he visited in December.
Netanyahu also praised a “great change” with Russia, which he said was of great importance in terms of connecting economic and cultural interests, and also – referring to the situation in Syria – because of the strategic importance of coordinating with Moscow.
Referring to his upcoming trip to Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, before going to the UN General Assembly in New York, Netanyahu said that Latin America was a “huge market in a large bloc of important countries.”
This breakthrough, he said, was made possible because a basic assumption – that the world will open to Israel only if there is an agreement with the Palestinians – has proven false.
Such an agreement, which Netanyahu said Israel wants, will help Israel’s standing in the world, “but the world opens without it.”
Netanyahu said this is all happening because Israel is developing two strengths, which are leading to a third: It is cultivating its economic- technological power, which enables it to nurture unique military- intelligence capabilities, and that combination leads to diplomatic strength.
“The whole world is changing,” he said. “This does not mean that it is changing in international forums, at the UN, or UNESCO. But what we have here is a tremendous change that is happening despite, unfortunately, the Palestinians still not having changed their conditions for a diplomatic arrangement that are unacceptable to a large part of the public.”
Following Netanyahu, Hanan Goder, the head of the ministry’s workers committee, which is engaged in a years-long battle for better working conditions for Israel’s diplomats, spoke. He told Netanyahu that the ministry’s employees are waging the country’s diplomatic battles, and that it is his role to give directions, present the vision and set the red lines.
“But you are also responsible to give us the tools for the struggle,” Goder said. “Because it is impossible to screen a computer presentation without electricity, or to distribute position papers without a budget for paper. And by the same token, it is not possible to hold lectures if representatives are not sent to the embassies.”
The country’s diplomats, Goder told Netanyahu, are not getting a fitting box of tools. “Mr. Foreign Minister, do you know that instead of 3,000 applications for the cadets’ course, the number this year fell to only 800? “Do you know that 30% of those who enter the cadets’ course leave this profession within eight years?” he added.
To further stress the ministry’s poor working conditions and understaffing, Goder told Netanyahu that a pizza delivery boy earns more than a local hire at an Israeli Embassy abroad. He added that there are only six Israeli diplomats at the UN, facing off against 600 from the Arab League.
Netanyahu did not publicly respond to Goder.