Sunday, January 17, 2016

Education minister accuses Foreign Ministry of 'faulty DNA'

Shlomo Cesana,

Education Minister Naftali Bennett criticizes ex-Foreign Ministry director Alon Liel for "demonizing Israel" as part of left-wing activism • Foreign Ministry workers' union repudiates Bennett, demands apology • PM: One man doesn't reflect on all workers.

Bennett image from article

The Foreign Ministry was up in arms on Saturday in the wake of harsh criticism leveled by Education Naftali Bennett, who said that the ministry had "faulty DNA."

Bennett's criticism focused on former Foreign Ministry Director Alon Liel, who is now active in left-wing groups. It came in the wake of a secret recording of a meeting between Liel and left-wing group Breaking the Silence, taped by the right-wing Ad Kan movement. In the recording, Liel is heard comparing "the occupation" to apartheid-era South Africa and suggesting that the organization help turn public opinion against Israel's policies.

"This man, who came from the heart of the Foreign Ministry, is now encouraging boycotts against Israel and doing everything in his power to isolate Israel and undermine Israel's existential foundations by demonizing us," Bennett said in a radio interview over the weekend. "Now I am starting to believe that there is a problem with the DNA of the Foreign Ministry."

According to Bennett, "There are constant complaints about the Foreign Ministry. If people like Alon Liel were able to stay in the Foreign Ministry for as long as he did, there must be a deep-seated problem there. People ask: Where is the public diplomacy? What public diplomacy? When the No. 1 pyromaniac headed the ministry, there was no public diplomacy. How can he make Israel look good? Who can guarantee that he didn't do these things [encourage boycotts, demonize Israel, etc.] while he was Foreign Ministry director?"

After the radio interview, Bennett clarified that his remarks were not directed at all Foreign Ministry employees but rather at "those who undermine the state of Israel, like Alon Liel, the former director general. It is clear that the ministry employees are resolutely rejecting his conduct and working with dedication for the benefit of the state of Israel during these difficult times. This across-the-board rejection of Liel's remarks speaks volumes."

Despite Bennett's backtracking, the Foreign Ministry workers' union decided to repudiate the education minister and take action against him. In a written statement, the union said that "the education minister of Israel made distorted comments against Foreign Ministry employees. The implication of his demand -- that the ministry employees undergo DNA 'testing' -- calls into question the workers' loyalty to the state, to its institutions and to its government."

"The upsetting remarks made by individual former Foreign Minister employees do not give any minister the excuse to recklessly attack dedicated government workers," the statement continued. "We view this incident with grave severity and we have instructed all Foreign Ministry employees not to cooperate with Minister Bennett until he apologizes."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as the current foreign minister, defended the ministry employees, saying, "Liel's dangerous remarks should not be used to reflect on all Foreign Ministry workers, who loyally serve the state and adhere to the government's policies."

Current Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold also voiced his support for his workers, saying, "I would like to point out that I am surrounded by excellent, professional individuals whom I trust 100%."

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely also rejected Bennett's remarks, saying, "I don't accept Bennett's assertion that there is a problem with the DNA of the Foreign Ministry. Alon Liel and the handful of his cohorts are the exception. The workers of the Foreign Ministry, with whom I work every day, are dedicated people who honorably serve the state, unlike Liel and his friends who have decided to turn their backs on the state."

On the other side of the political spectrum, Meretz leader Zehava Galon came out in defense of Liel, saying, "It appears that every citizen who supports the two-state solution is not a political rival but a candidate to become a political prisoner. In general, if the idea of annexing Judea and Samaria and kicking out all the Arabs doesn't appeal to you, as far as Bennett is concerned, your loyalty to the state is in doubt and you should thank your lucky stars that you are even allowed to keep your citizenship."

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