Some Foreign Ministry diplomats are upset at Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's decision to appoint former Mossad man Reuven Dinal as ambassador to Turkmenistan.
Dinal will be the first Israeli ambassador to the central Asian nation, which shares hundreds of kilometers of border with Iran; the Israeli Embassy in the capital Ashgabat will be just 30 kilometers from the borders of the Islamic Republic.
Dinal is a controversial choice, say officials, because he could have trouble working with some regional players, particularly Russia. Dinal was the head of the Mossad bureau in Moscow before he was kicked out of the country in 1996 over espionage accusations.
"Former Mossad appointees are problematic, especially in such sensitive countries. It sends the message that Israel is only concerned with military or intelligence-related matters," said a senior Foreign Ministry staffer.
"It's clear this could cause problems with the Russians," agreed a senior diplomat. Both asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the appointment.
Beyond Dinal's personal history, ministry staff were angered that the appointment was made by the political level.
There are no legal restrictions on political appointments to diplomatic posts, but Foreign Ministry tradition has limited these to a handful of sensitive positions requiring personal trust between the ambassador and the politician.
During Tzipi Livni's term as minister, there was a concerted effort to reduce the number of political appointments, which fell to just three positions - Washington, the UN and the New York consulate, a position that represents Israel to the largest Jewish community outside the country.
Under Lieberman, however, there has been a retreat from that position and a new willingness to appoint people close to the minister to important posts, staffers say.
Lieberman declined to comment for this article. Dinal could not be reached by press time.