First Bedouin ambassador appointed, has called out Israeli racism in past

Ishmael Khaldi was one of 11 appointments that were approved, which including the posting of three female ambassadors.

Israel’s first Bedouin ambassador, Ishmael Khaldi (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel’s first Bedouin ambassador, Ishmael Khaldi
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The government on Sunday appointed Ishmael Khaldi as Israel's first Bedouin ambassador, overriding the objection of some ministers due to his past history of social-media posts charging Israel with racism.
Khaldi, who will be Israel’s new ambassador to Eritrea – stationed in Asmara – has worked for the Foreign Ministry since 2004. This has included time spent as a political adviser to former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman. he has been posted as a diplomat in high-profile places, such as the consulate in San Francisco and embassy in the UK.
In London, he was tasked with Israel’s campaign against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
But he has also been blunt in social-media posts and comments about Israel’s treatment of Bedouin and Arab-Israelis.
In one 2017 social-media post that can be found on the MIDA website, Khaldi wrote that the Bedouin should keep fighting for their rights, “even if we need to go to the ICJ [International Court of Justice].” He later apologized for that post.
According to media reports, Khaldi also posted on Facebook in 2015, stating that Israel’s treatment of Arabs and Muslims was worse than the antisemitism the Jews faced.
At Sunday’s meeting, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana (Likud) raised the issue of the 2017 social-media post. Ohana abstained from the vote, his spokesman said.
Cyber and National Digital Matter Minister David Amsalem (Likud) also spoke out against the appointment, Walla reported.
“If someone has written even once that Israel is a racist state, he should not be appointed as ambassador,” he said.
Settlements Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) defended Khaldi, saying he “had provided quality service for the state,” and there was no need to go through his Facebook page.
Others who supported him were Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi of the Blue and White Party.
Khaldi was one of 11 appointments that were approved, which included the posting of three female ambassadors.
“I am proud that at the start of my tenure as foreign minister I brought to the government’s approval a respectable number of women to be heads of mission and that for the first time we’ve appointed a Bedouin [diplomat] as our representative to head an Israeli embassy abroad,” Ashkenazi said.
Khaldi has a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Haifa and a master’s degree in international relations from Tel Aviv University. He has written a short autobiography of his life, called A Shepherd's Journey: The Story of Israel’s First Bedouin diplomat.
In June, at an event that appeared to an alleged incident of racial profiling, Khaldi was assaulted by security guards at Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station and knocked to the ground.
Regarding the female appointments, Meirav Eilon Shahar will serve as Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Hagit Ben-Yaakov will be the ambassador to Finland in Helsinki, and Zehavit Ben-Hillel will be posted to Uzbekistan’s capital of Tashkent.
Other postings include Haim Assaraf to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, Akiva Tor to South Korea’s capital city of Seoul, Yahel Vilan to Serbia’s capital of Belgrade, Ran Yaakoby to New Zealand’s capital of Wellington, Oren Bar-Ell to Costa Rica’s capital of San Jose and Hanan Goder-Goldberger to Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu.
Meron Reuben has been appointed the Israeli consulate-general in Boston.
Ashkenazi said these appointments, and a number of others he has made, are part of a reinvestment in the Foreign Ministry and its representation abroad after a period of neglect.
In light of the global health and economic crises, Israel’s foreign emissaries have a particularly vital role to play, he said.
Ashkenazi promised he would make additional appointments in the near future.
“I will continue to work to strengthen the Foreign Ministry’s status as an influential and leading body in Israel’s diplomatic decision-making process,” he said.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.