(photo credit: Nisim Lev)
National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror's irritated response to questions by Israeli ambassadors about E1 – that they should either represent Israel's position, resign or go into politics – was representative of a government attitude that does not put a premium on explaining policy to those who must represent it, Foreign Ministry officials said Monday.
The officials were responding to a Yediot Ahronot story Monday that Amidror snapped a day earlier at ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor when he asked about the timing of the decision to announce planning for development of the E1 section between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim. That announcement came a day after the Palestinians won their statehood upgrade in November at the UN General Assembly, and brought in its wake an avalanche of international criticism.
Amidror was addressing the annual conference of Israel's ambassadors and heads of delegations abroad currently taking place in Jerusalem.
According to ministry officials, Prosor – who served previously as the Foreign Ministry's director-general under Silvan Shalom and whose political world-view is not considered left of center – asked Amidror in a diplomatic fashion about the E1 decision, in order to understand what stood behind it.
When Amidror said that he would take some more question and answer them all together, a number of others asked for more information about the E1 decision.
Israel's ambassador to Prague, Yaakov Levy, asked further on the issue, and did so, according to one official, in a "sharper manner." 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, stopped, and chastised 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 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. "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 the objectives were of the government's settlement policy
The government's decision to respond to the Palestinian Authority's move at the UN by announcing plans for new building and planning in the settlements was taken against the foreign ministry's advice, which was that such a move would be counterproductive since it would deflect the world's attention away from the Palestinian abrogation of the Oslo accord, and onto the settlement issue.
The Prime Minister's Office had no response to the Amidror incident. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address the envoys on Thursday.