By HERB KEINON
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The ministry staff “serves the country faithfully and carries out the government’s policies,” says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The storm over Education Minister Naftali Bennett's comments about a problem with the DNA of the Foreign Ministry passed Sunday following a meeting between Bennett and one of the heads of the ministry's worker’s committee during which he clarified his comments.
“We had a good meeting,” said the ministry's Hanan Godar. “This issue is now behind us.”
The day before, the worker's committee said it would no longer cooperate with Bennett until he apologized for his comment to Tel Aviv Radio on Friday during which he addressed efforts made by former foreign ministry director-general Alon Liel to get international pressure on Israel.
“While Israel is stepping up preparations against BDS [the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement], it turns out that a big part of the BDS efforts are born here,” Bennett said. “It bothers me a great deal that the person [Liel] who was responsible for furthering Israel's standing in the world, is doing everything he can -- now that he is not in that position – to harm Israel's standing in order to advance his agenda.' Bennett called this an “earthquake,” and said, “I am starting to think that maybe there is a problem in the DNA of the Foreign Ministry.”
If people like Liel were in the Foreign Ministry for “enough time, there is a deep problem,” Bennett continued. “People ask where is hasbara [public diplomacy]? What hasbara, when the number one pyromaniac is standing at the head of the system?” Bennett asked who could guarantee that Liel “did not do these things during his tenure.”
A veteran diplomat who once served as Israel's ambassador to South Africa, Liel served as director general for six months in the waning months of Ehud Barak's premiership in 2000-2001. He currently is a lecturer on international relations at Tel Aviv University and the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
Following Bennett's comments, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely, and Foreign Ministry director general Dore Gold all issued statements over the weekend attesting to the professional nature of the country's diplomats.
“One cannot draw conclusions about the Foreign Ministry employees from Liel's grave statements,” Netanyahu said, adding that the ministry staff “serves the country faithfully and carries out the government’s policies.”
Bennett issued a statement saying that Godar asked to meet him, and that he was glad to hear Godar say that Liel's comments were “poisonous” for Israel.
Bennett said that his own comments were aimed only at a number of former foreign ministry official “harming” Israel, and not a general statement about all ministry diplomats.
Yediot Aharonot on Wednesday quoted Liel as encouraging Breaking the Silence activists at a meeting last month to continue their efforts against Israel abroad, saying that only the type of international pressure that was once brought to bear on South Africa would get Israel to “end the occupation.”
According to a secret tape of the meeting, Liel described a scenario whereby Israel could eventually get kicked out of the UN, as South Africa once was.
“Every article of yours, every meeting with politicians can reach the public, and reach some head of state who will give directions on whether to vote for or against,” he said, adding that he did not see another way to move Israel, since “the political system is lost.”