Livni cites improvements in process for appointments to foreign posts

The Foreign Ministry has made 30 appointments of heads of Israeli legations abroad within the past two months, thus giving the diplomats and their families time to prepare for their move overseas, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the State Control Committee on Tuesday. Livni added that she was adhering to her goal of preferring candidates chosen by tender (i.e. from among Foreign Ministry employees) except the ambassador to Washington and the consul in New York. Livni spoke at the committee meeting which was devoted to the State Comptroller's report on the Foreign Ministry which was published on June 26, 2006. The report harshly criticized the system of making appointments and promoting employees in the ministry. In the report, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss wrote that the appointments committee "is not properly staffed, lacks criteria for examining candidates, is not transparent, and there is reason to believe that in some cases the committee was just a rubber stamp for decisions that had already been made." Livni told the State Control Committee that she had already made changes in the ministry in keeping with the Lindenstrauss report. For example, there were now three appointments committees instead of two and the foreign minister now only sits on the one that chooses heads of the foreign legations. She also said that she purposely did not meet privately with any of the candidates for a posting to discuss the job before the appointments committee met. She made sure a representative of the public, usually a retired Foreign Ministry employee, participated in each tender. Livni added, however, that she did not want to make a formal change in the government's right to make 11 diplomatic appointments in case it needed that option in the future. At the beginning of the meeting, Lindenstrauss urged Livni to abolish that right and also said she should bar ambassadors from seeking contributions from Israeli businessmen to fund embassy events such as the annual Independence Day party. Livni told Lindenstrauss she had ordered the practice stopped by the end of the year.