Friday, January 1, 2016

Israeli diplomacy favours the strong-arm over the handshake

Simon Reynolds,

image from
Diplomacy has been described by the author Robin Hobb as the velvet glove that cloaks the fist of power.
In Israel’s case, given its recent ultimatum issued to the Brazilian government to accept the appointment of a West Bank settler as ambassador or face a downgrading of diplomatic relations, it seems that the glove has been discarded. ...
Israel’s diplomatic model is one assembled around a central pillar of truculence, with little space for compromise, or even self-awareness. Criticism, regardless of its evidential basis, is met with ridicule, slander or threats of disengagement. Bizarrely, this treatment even extends to Israeli diplomats themselves, whose decision to strike in March 2014, following steady salary erosion, was condemned by the head of the foreign ministry as “a miserable decision showing that they have lost their senses entirely”.
Meanwhile, concerning its interaction with the UN, a policy of engagement by way of perpetual confrontation appears to have been adopted. Indeed, it is some measure of the disdain with which the UN and its stated purpose of promoting international cooperation is regarded by Israel that Netanyahu appointed Danny Danon – a fervent devotee of the Israeli hard right who has called for the annexation of the West Bank and establishing of an apartheid state, and whom Netanyahu had previously sacked from the Israeli cabinet for repeated verbal attacks on the leadership – as Israel’s envoy to the organisation.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz suggested Danon’s appointment would throw “Israel off the diplomatic cliff”, whilst senior figures within Israeli politics have voiced their alarm at the government’s approach to public diplomacy and the resulting crisis in the state’s international standing. Yet, if Israel adopts this domineering and dismissive stance towards powerful actors on the international stage, what hope is there for meaningful and productive discussion with the Palestinians? ... 
To return to Robin Hobb’s observation, then, in its adoption of a zero-sum, shock-and-awe form of public diplomacy, Israel appears to have abandoned any pretence of a "velvet glove" and simply concluded that the fist will suffice. ...

No comments: