jeremy ruden 58.
(photo credit: courtesy)
It was journalist and TV anchor Robert MacNeil who said, “You learn, just as you
learn good manners, how to approach things with a certain amount of
Considering Israel’s performance at the UN General Assembly
last week, it seems we still need a lot of cramming at etiquette school to do,
since we continue to botch opportunities to help our own cause.
better or worse, the backbone of diplomacy is protocol – that set of rules which
all sides must agree on when entering the diplomatic arena. The local press
picked up the story about Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s wife sitting with her
husband, President Shimon Peres and other Israeli representatives on the
assembly floor. The protocol is clear as day: if you are a guest at the
proceedings and have no official standing, you sit in the mezzanine. If it’s
good enough for the first lady of the US and the wives of other world leaders,
it should be good enough for Nili Priel.
While this incident might seem
trivial, it is a symptom of a larger problem.We need to take our public
diplomacy more seriously, and nothing expresses how nonchalant we are in this
regard than another incident which took place the very next day at the
PRESIDENT BARACK Obama devoted a good portion of his speech to
the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Among other things, he was optimistic
about an agreement. He called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to continue
the settlement freeze, and warned countries against questioning Israel’s
When watching excerpts from the speech, I was shocked to see
the empty seats of the Israeli delegation when the camera cut to their position.
Seems our representatives took time off to observe Succot. This is a prime
example of how to fail in the sphere of hasbara – a sphere where we cannot
afford any more blunders.
Without making light of the Feast of
Tabernacles, priorities must be drawn. When that camera pans to empty seats, it
looks like Israel is boycotting the speech.
Yes, we explained to the UN
and the Americans why we were not in attendance, but it’s unlikely that most of
the people who watched it on TV knew that. If the US president is talking about
Israel to the leaders of the world, we need our delegates to be there.
Furthermore, those same representatives must be available for
media appearances afterward. We don’t need any more misunderstandings.
was just as important for us to be on the floor for the hate-filled speech by
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which took place on the same day. Our
delegates should have walked out in disgust, together with our American and
European allies. Is it not important to show solidarity against such venomous
words as those spouted by the leader of the Iranian dictatorship? Can we afford
to miss an opportunity to applaud our friends and condemn our enemies on the
international stage? The counterargument, of course, would be that Succot is a
holiday during which our delegates shouldn’t be working, but our diplomats are
not like shop owners.
They’re more like our armed forces, and most
soldiers on the front line spend the majority of holidays away from home and on
guard for any potential threats.
When Israel is being discussed at the UN
or in any key international forum, we need our diplomats there for the same
Some people don’t see the diplomatic front as part of our general
struggle to exist, and here is where the paradigm shift needs to take place.
Israel is fighting diplomatic enemies as well as military ones, and both should
be given our utmost attention. Both arenas have their own set of rules, which we
must understand and abide by. Let us not forget that it was diplomacy, in its
many forms, which gave us a state at the fateful UN vote back in 1947, just as
it took every effort by the newly born IDF to keep it.
The writer is an
independent media consultant, an adjunct lecturer at IDC Herzliya’s School of
Communications and a former producer at the Fox News Channel in New