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Wednesday March 9th 2011
News analysis
Israeli politics
A pointed resignation
Mar 6th 2011, 9:47 by D.L. | JERUSALEM
A FORMER Israeli ambassador to South Africa has pointedly resigned from the foreign service, citing the collapse of apartheid South Africa as an important lesson for modern-day Israel.
"For 46 years the apartheid government strove by force of arms to achieve regional hegemony," wrote Ilan Baruch wrote to his colleagues in the Israeli foreign ministry in a parting letter. "Apartheid was supported by almost everyone in the white community, not necessarily as a racist theory but as a policy of self-defence. There was denial of the moral price."
Mr Baruch stressed that "those who accuse Israel of South Africa-style apartheid are plain wrong. That is a vengeful and vicious calumny against Zionism… However, I do believe that the South African experience needs to be studied." He explained in his letter that he found himself no longer able to represent Israel because the government of Binyamin Netanyahu had no interest in a peace process based on land for peace and designed to end the conflict with the Palestinians.
Government spokesmen, he wrote, had repeatedly rejected the international demand that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories. "They spurn the Annapolis process, they ignore the Road Map [two American peace initiatives from the Bush years which Israel accepted at the time]. The upshot is a malignant diplomatic dynamic which threatens Israel’s international standing and undermines the legitimacy not only of its occupation but of its very membership in the family of nations."
He was, therefore, taking early retirement, Mr Baruch announced. He is the first and thus far the only member of the foreign service to quit since Mr Netanyahu became prime minister two years ago and installed Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the hard-right Yisrael Beitenu party, as foreign minister. He says he received dozens of e-mails and text messages from colleagues thanking him for expressing what many in the ministry think. No-one wrote condemning his action. Most of his colleagues wrote nothing at all. Perhaps, he surmises, people were not anxious to put their thoughts in traceable writing.
The foreign ministry itself issued a statement saying that Mr Baruch had applied last year to be ambassador to Egypt, had failed to get the appointment—and that was why he was leaving.
Mr Baruch dismisses that as petty and spiteful. He admits, though, that if he were younger or poorer he probably would not have left, "but rather have sought a low-profile posting where one can keep one’s head down and wait. A sort of unarticulated, internal resignation; that’s what many people do."
In his letter, Mr Baruch cautioned that "the paternalistic depiction of Israel as a front-line fortress in a global inter-cultural and inter-religious conflict is dangerous. The depiction of the opposition within the international community to Israel’s occupation policy as anti-Semitism is simplistic, provincial and superficial."
Mr Baruch took a stinging swipe at the foreign ministry’s efforts to change Israel’s branding as a way of improving its international standing. "The concept that the answer to the various threats to our national security lies in expanding our public advocacy and in promoting Israel’s image as a leader in world technology—that concept is an illusion."
Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister in the previous government and now leader of the opposition, supported Mr Baruch’s critique. "Public relations without policy is no solution," she said. "Perhaps [Mr Netanyahu] really believes that speaking in fluent English on foreign television stations creates change. But it doesn’t."
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bampbs wrote:
Mar 6th 2011 4:44 GMT
That the US does not use its leverage to halt Israeli settlements is a disaster, for Israel most of all. The Israeli Right has no interest in a comprehensive peace. Peace would be their political death.
Mar 7th 2011 1:12 GMT
Well it seems there is very little financial incentive for Israel to pursue peace. The more war - the greater the monetary and military aid it will receive from the US. I also find it difficult to believe that it will help if the US forms part of any negotiations. A peace negotiator should be independent, neutral and have no interest at stake in the outcome of the negotiations. The US clearly has a stake because it uses its veto in the security council to ward off criticism of Israel. It has a vested interest. An impartial negotiator would simply facilitate dialogue between parties without taking sides. Perhaps that is why there will really never be peace in the Middle East: the US should withdraw from the negotiation process and allow a neutral negotiator to take control of draughting a peace proposal. Perhaps it is time to try something new.
Ghalib wrote:
Mar 7th 2011 3:45 GMT
Still in denial. I suppose he believes that a half pregnancy is possible. Come on Ambassador, say it. Say the R word. Say ' Zionism is ........ ' You will sleep better.
Mar 7th 2011 4:30 GMT
A FORMER Israeli ambassador to South Africa has resigned and gone into retirement with an observation "He explained in his letter that he found himself no longer able to represent Israel because the government of Binyamin Netanyahu had no interest in a peace process based on land for peace and designed to end the conflict with the Palestinians." Lets wait and see what comes next?
deanquill wrote:
Mar 7th 2011 4:42 GMT
Ghalib: He's not denying it because he doesn't believe it, and he doesn't believe it because it isn't true. Zionism is nationalism. Unless you're going to argue that either all nationalism - including Palestinian nationalism - is racism, or that there's something about a Jewish nationalism that makes it uniquely discriminatory then it looks like you're calling a kettle black while sounding a bit potty.
Mar 7th 2011 11:19 GMT
Mr Baruch is simply articulating what many people have understood for a long time, that force does not buy you security indefinitely. Its persistent use rots the public moral conscience and its persistent success brings arrogance and the temptation to over-reach oneself. It also encourages contempt and a lack of empathy for the oppressed. The way of force is, in the end, the route to Hell.
Arguably the present Israeli government is well down this particular hole but is sustained in its illusions by the fact that Western diplomacy needs a nuclear-armed maverick in the region, notably to deal with Iran and its apparent ambition to develop nuclear weapons of its own. Israeli nukes are a dagger pointed at the Iranian throat, waiting to be triggered the instant the Israelis genuinely believe the Iranians to have a viable Bomb. They won't wait for the otherwise inevitable Mexican stand-off if they believe the other side positively craves Armageddon to bring on the coming of the 12th Imam. It'll be a case of Nuke first and ask questions later.
Of course the other side of the question is whether an Iranian bomb is credible, as this correspondent has queried many times. If it is, truly, incredible the whole issue of Israel's posture in the region changes from one of reluctant Western acceptance to a more hostile attitude, as Mr Baruch's resignation comments encourages. Then there is the thought that if the Israelis do a deal with the Palestinians for a one or two State solution or whatever that their negotiators will be assassinated also. Not an encouragement to settle. And it wasn’t just Rabin, Sadat who did his side of the deal was assassinated too. So extremists on both sides lie in wait for any future deal-makers. It is arguable that israeli politics started to become the snake-pit it has become in the wake of Rabin's assassination and the extremely unwise judgement certain fringe political figures showed in facilitating it.
Mr Baruch's comments are of considerable political value but are likely to fall on deaf ears, especially as he has made it clear he is retiring from the political/diplomatic stage. A fading voice, no matter what it says, is unlikely to get the attention that a Still Small Voice would -should - get. There is no real sign that his closing position has encouraged anything new in the way of the support and development it deserves.
chinachip wrote:
Mar 7th 2011 11:53 GMT
So, Ilan, and Tzipi, best of luck, and never give up! Can we expect Israel to have a Muslim Prime Minister by 2154? America did Obama in an eye-blink of 143 years compared to your history, he’s done some good things, and’s looking not to shabby for two terms. What’s the problem? ;-)
Mar 7th 2011 1:38 GMT
"Mr Baruch stressed that "those who accuse Israel of South Africa-style apartheid are plain wrong. That is a vengeful and vicious calumny against Zionism . . . . "
"I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government."
-- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 2010
Mar 7th 2011 5:15 GMT
bampbs: Good point. American "support" for Israel is detrimental to Israel's long term interests because it brings out the worst in the country, thereby poisoning its already bad relations with its neighbors.
Innominata wrote:
Mar 7th 2011 6:58 GMT
As long as the Palestinians and other neighboring states believe in destroying Israel and killing all the Jews, which most do, Israel has no choice but to wage an aggressive defence. It's enemies give no quarter and Israelis should expect no mercy from the Arabs should Jewish resolve fail. South Africa's blacks did not want to kill all the whites, and people like Mandela were men of peace and conciliation. There are no Mandelas in the Arab world, only genocidal hatemongers.
Imperfeito wrote:
Mar 7th 2011 9:24 GMT
politbureau's words struck deep and I don’t think he’s lying. Remember Israel’s bloody ‘modus operandi’ in the Flotilla case. Tyranny isn’t an exclusivity of Zionism, of course. It's a more general human characteristic and often pops up when the wrong people gets to power and there is no effective accountability control, as is the case at hand. However I would expect a better behavior from any Jewish state especially after the atrocities their own people (and others) have been subjected just before and through the Second World War. It seems the lessons regarding human rights protection were not properly learned then. In my opinion the best possible solution to this endless conflict has already been drafted by President Clinton. Why hasn’t it been implemented? The answer may lie partially in Wynand Meyering's above comments: US has something at stake. But what, for God's Sake? What a tiny dusty country has to offer US if not oil? I think nothing but it is occurring nevertheless due likely to a strong Jewish lobby rooted deep inside American Congress which prevents any American President to have the last last word at the issue. That’s why I believe it’s a good thing to have some emerging world powers clouding America’s hegemony, even if their cultures aren’t as familiar as America’s. Maybe that’s the price to pay for a more balanced and fair international community.
Mar 8th 2011 8:52 GMT
You are a very brave man, Ilan. I hope others follow your admirable example.
Isaschar wrote:
Mar 8th 2011 10:43 GMT
It seems incredulous that the Economist continues to bash Israel at every opportunity, even as UK foreign policy (under peace-loving Labor) made love with barbaric tyrants like Gadafi, who were up until receintly honorable members of the UN human rights commission.
In Israel there are 1%-2% (at most) of the electorate who may agree with the ex-ambassador given such a grand hearing. Does that justify a full article on the topic?
The only logical (rational, as Economists like to think) rationale for this completely disproportionate slander campaign is that the Economist must be receiving handsome funds from Arab petrotyrants to due their bidding. After all, the London School of Economics (and probably many others) was on the paylist of Gadafi, why not the Economist? An interesting article would be where the prestiougous ex-ambassordor is employed in 3 years time - perhaps at the LSE?
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