The Finance Ministry on Tuesday announced the appointment of the country’s first “economic representative” to China – a move that raised eyebrows in the Foreign Ministry as some tried to determine what this representative would do that the ministry’s economic attachés there did not.
The Foreign Ministry has three economic attachés in its embassy and consulates in China.
The Treasury issued a statement saying that Ofer Peleg, who has worked in a number of senior positions in the Treasury over the last 16 years and has experience in economics and finance, had been approved for the post by the Civil Services Commission.
Peleg’s job will be to “strengthen the economic relations” between the two countries, the statement said. The Treasury has similar appointments in the US and at the OECD in Paris.
But some in the Foreign Ministry wondered why the Finance Ministry needed to have its own man in China, when the Foreign Ministry had a number of diplomats already working there who were focused solely on economic matters.
It is not clear, one official said, what Peleg will do that the others are not already doing.
Meanwhile, the term of the current ambassador to China, Matan Vilna’i, is expected to be extended by another year, and Zvi Heifetz – the man whom then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman selected last year to replace him – is expected to be named ambassador to Moscow instead.
The 59-year-old Heifetz is Russian-born and immigrated to Israel at the age of 14.
Both Vilna’i and Heifetz are political appointments whose patrons are no longer in key government positions – Ehud Barak for Vilna’i, and Liberman for Heifetz.
Heifetz served previously as ambassador to Britain, and is currently Israel’s envoy to Austria.
The foreign minister is allowed 11 political appointments.