Government officials on Monday rejected the notion that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's appointment as the minister in charge of Israel's strategic dialogue with various country's around the world would in any way step on Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's toes.
Mofaz received this title Monday, along with his new Transportation portfolio and appointment to Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet. Mofaz will be inheriting this position from Tzahi Hanegbi, who was appointed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Dan Meridor and Uzi Landau also served Sharon in this capacity, and this job has never been held by the foreign minister.
Israel, according to diplomatic officials, holds what are called strategic dialogues with a number of select countries around the world, the most important being the US. Other countries include India and Turkey.
The idea behind these dialogues is to bring officials from various governmental ministries and agencies - the defense ministry, foreign ministry, intelligence agencies and military - together with their counterparts and discuss strategic issues on the agenda and long-term planning, and not just the day-to-day issues that are brought up in routine bilateral meetings.
For example, at the last Israel-US strategic dialogue held in Washington in November, the two sides focused on the Iranian nuclear threat. Hanegbi led the Israeli delegation, which also included the directors-general of both the foreign and defense ministries.
The US-Israeli strategic dialogue was set up in 2001. However, in 2003, the US put the dialogue on hold and the talks did not take place again until 2005, largely because of a strain in relations between the US and Israeli defense establishments over Israeli arms sales to China. The renewal of the dialogue in 2005 sent a strong signal that the crisis over the Chinese arms sales had passed.