The unprecedented effrontery of three Israeli diplomats

Urging Brazil not to accept Dani Dayan as Israel’s ambassador was an unforgivable act by individuals who should have known that there times when ethical behavior is more important than giving vent to your political persuasion.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

Diplomatic protocol requires that a government wishing to appoint an ambassador to another country will notify its government of the intended appointment and await that government’s agreement to the appointment. In French, which used to be the universal language of diplomacy, the practice is called “agrément.”

This procedure, which is part of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations of 1961, probably dates back to agreements reached at the 1815 Congress of Vienna, held after the Napoleonic wars. Today it is treated as no more than a formality. One would have to search history books to find a case in which the “agrément” was not forthcoming. To the best of my knowledge, it has never happened in Israel’s diplomatic history.

But last week, three former Israeli ambassadors attempted to make diplomatic history, by urging the Brazilian government not to give its “agrément” to the decision of the Israeli government to appoint Dani Dayan as Israel’s ambassador to Brazil. This unprecedented effrontery was committed by three former Israeli ambassadors, one of whom had been a political appointee while the two others are former Israeli career diplomats. One of the two, believe it or not, served in the past as director-general of the foreign ministry.

The act of all three is unforgivable and it can be assumed that, whether they like it or not, it will become an integral part of their curriculum vitae for many years to come. It is completely incomprehensible in the case of the two who were career diplomats in the Israeli foreign service, who must have learned, and thereafter taught others, that the task of the professional diplomat is to represent the Israeli government to the best of his ability, regardless of his own political opinions.

They surely knew, on entering the foreign service, that the government would change during the course of their careers, Israel being a democracy. At times they would be called on to represent a government for which they voted and at other times they would have to represent a government that they voted against. In both cases, it is incumbent on them to do so to the best of their abilities. The one who was a political appointee to the post of ambassador should also have known, surely, that urging a foreign government to reject an ambassador appointed by the Israeli government is unethical, to say the least.

I have had the opportunity to serve as Israel’s foreign minister and have appointed a number of ambassadors to represent Israel in foreign lands. In the case of career members of the foreign service, I never inquired as to their political views, feeling certain that they would do their best to represent Israel and the Israeli government, and chose them solely on the basis of their abilities.

I used the quota available to the foreign minister for making political appointments. Thus, I appointed Zalman Shoval to be our ambassador in Washington, where he did an excellent job, continuing even after Yitzhak Rabin was elected prime minister. I also inherited a political appointee from Shimon Peres, who was my predecessor as foreign minister: Shimon Shamir, who was Israel’s ambassador in Cairo.

When I became foreign minister, as is appropriate in such a case, Shamir offered his resignation, which I refused to accept. He continued doing an excellent job representing Israel in Egypt during a difficult time. These are examples of the behavior we expect from our ambassadors. There are times when ethical behavior is more important than giving vent to your political persuasion.

As for Dani Dayan, all Israelis, regardless of their political persuasion, can support his appointment as Israel’s ambassador in Brazil. It is an important position; Brazil is one of the 10 most important countries in the world and Dayan has all the qualifications needed to represent not only the present government but all of Israel there.

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