Israeli diplomats appeal for increased presence abroad

Israel has 1,691 fewer diplomatic missions than Arab League states; Public diplomacy budget a fraction of Osem’s annual ad budget, Foreign Ministry tells Knesset committee.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addresses the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations (photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addresses the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations
(photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)
Many and varied are the reasons why Israel’s arguments abroad are being drowned out by the other side, one of which is the following: The 22 members of the Arab League have 1,799 missions and delegations abroad. Israel has 108, and it is in the process of closing six.
Those were among the figures that Hanan Goder-Goldberger, Israel’s non-resident ambassador to South Sudan and one of the heads of the Foreign Ministry’s workers committee, presented this week to his colleagues gathered for the annual meeting of the heads of Israel’s missions abroad, including ambassadors and consuls-general.
Israel, according to these figures, has 78 embassies abroad, 23 consulates, one trade office, and six missions to international organizations. Iran, by comparison, has 142 missions abroad, and the Palestinian Authority has 101.
Turkey, according to these figures, has a whopping 233 delegations.
Goder-Goldberger told The Jerusalem Post before his presentation that he simply failed to understand why Israel did not allocate more resources to send representatives abroad.
“Maybe it’s because we look too good already,” he said sarcastically.
“Maybe because foreign relations is unimportant. I don’t understand it.”
And not only does Israel have just a fraction of the delegations that the Arab countries have abroad, but those delegations are woefully unmanned, with just a single diplomat in 30 of the missions, and two in another 56 missions, including in Buenos Aires, Cairo and Shanghai.
Israel, Goder-Goldberger said, is also very poorly represented in comparison to countries with similar populations, but with only a fraction of the international challenges that Israel faces.
For instance, Greece – which has some 11 million people – has 142 representations abroad, including 51 consulates to deal and cultivate ties with the huge Greek diaspora. Israel, with 8.5 million people and a no less significant Jewish Diaspora, has 23 consulates.
Even Norway, with 5.2 million people and in much less need than Israel of international support, has 115 missions abroad.
To those who argue that the Norway comparison is unfair – since that Scandinavian country’s per capita GDP stands at $67,166, compared to $33,136 for Israel – then take a look at figures from the Czech Republic.
That country, with a per capita GDP of $30,047, closer to Israel’s than Norway’s, has 123 representations abroad, 15 more than Israel’s current number.
Goder-Goldberger said that one of the problems was that the Foreign Ministry lacks a full time minister – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also the country’s foreign minister – and as a result there is no one “to bang on the tables” and demand budgets, or to fight when bits and pieces of the ministry are taken away and given to other ministries, such as NIS 100 million given to the Strategic Affairs Ministry to fight BDS.
The paltry sums Israel allocates for public diplomacy, also known as hasbara, was discussed on Wednesday at the foreign relations subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, chaired by Kulanu MK Michael Oren.
The Foreign Ministry’s Noam Katz, from the ministry’s public diplomacy division, said the ministry’s operating budget for public diplomacy is NIS 14m. for all the country’s missions abroad.
“This is a tiny budget that does not permit carrying out major projects,” he said. For example, he pointed out, the budget available for Israeli public diplomacy in Sweden, which is one of Israel’s harshest critics in Europe, is $19,000.
Oren, who characterized the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as a “threat of the first order,” said it was “impossible to seriously fight delegitimization of Israel and the BDS movement with a marketing budget of NIS 14m., when, by comparison, the Osem firm’s annual advertising budget is NIS 110m.
“How can Israel fight the boycott movement in Sweden when its advertising and marketing budget there is $19,000?” he asked.