Dalia Itzik May Need A Time Out
But Not At Israel’s Cost

July 27, 2002. Updated July 4, 2006

The Jerusalem Post devoted considerable space to the proposed appointment of Minister of Trade, Dalia Itzik, as Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. Aside from publishing opinion pieces and numerous letters, the Post railed against this job-for-pals political appointment by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Chief Editor Bret Stephens avoided the word nepotism in his editorials. But this writer has no need to be constrained by political correctness. So I charge that this is clearly crony nepotism.

One would have thought by now that Peres was fully alive to the need for Israel’s ambassadors and consuls to have fluent English language skills. This is a fundamental proficiency needed by Israel’s representatives to effectively present Israel’s case to win hearts and minds on world TV.

To think Peres would ignore this aspect in appointments of such critical importance, leaving Israel virtually speechless in the world’s media, is bad enough. To think that Itzik too does not appreciate that her language and diplomatic skills are totally inadequate to do the PR job Israel needs, is another head-shaking disappointment.

Inadequate English Is A PR Disaster

Calev Ben David put it well in his op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, July 25.

“A mere adequate command of English is not sufficient to serve as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, especially when one is constantly called upon by a hostile British media to defend Israel. Having an ambassador with the right accent in the UK would be a big plus – just as, alas, having the wrong accent in Israel is a big minus.”

Dalia Itzik does not have the rhetorical skills nor the fortitude to give as well as she would have to take from BBC interviewers like Tim Sebastian (Hard Talk) and others. Nor the oratorical capability to inspire the crowds who come to Jewish or Zionist events. She should look elsewhere for “her time out” because she will be a total failure in London. A failure neither Israel nor Itzik can afford. And which the UK will not take in good grace.

In recent years, defending Israel against its many enemies has assumed mandatory proportions. Yet latter day governments have appointed lack-luster, tongue-tied party hacks, or retired military personnel, to positions requiring the greatest PR mastery and experience. With the result our Foreign Service abroad is filled with media dullards. Examples:

Lancry at United Nations

Yehuda Lancry (Likud), who made little difference if any during his 10 years as Knesset Member, was rewarded with the plum job of Ambassador to the United Nations. Next to Washington, our top diplomatic post. Regardless of the fact that his English is slow, labored and uninspiring.

Lancry’s infrequent speeches in Ivrit in the Knesset were a bore. To listen to him responding to vigorous attacks by Palestinian and the other full-time haters of Israel at the UN, is a stomach crunching pain. As a public relations defender of Israel in the world’s most important forum, Lancry is a failure. If his paper work and negotiating skills are above par let him be used in that capacity behind the scenes.

But the person to stand up and speak for Israel in the UN and on the world’s TV networks must be of the caliber of former luminaries like Abba Eban, Avraham Harman, Eliyahu Eilat, Chaim Hertzog and Binyamin Netanyahu. Nothing less will do. “They exist in abundance in the business, media, and academic sectors. It’s time to mobilize them” editorialized The Jerusalem Post, July 26.

Ivry in Washington

David Ivry, Ambassador to Washington, probably Israel’s most important post, recently completed his term. A former Commander of the Israel Air Force, he was the only Air Force official to become Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. There can be no doubt that Ivry was a significant force and behind the scenes negotiator in Washington. But as a public relations defender of Israel in the world’s most important capital, Ivry was a total failure.

It is reported that everyone liked Ivry, but he preferred playing the role of the invisible man. In an interview with Israel TV on his return home he was asked about this. He agreed he never sought public or TV appearances and worked best out of the limelight. At one point New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman sarcastically asked Prime Minister Sharon whether Israel actually had an ambassador in Washington!

Thank goodness for Ambassador Alon Pinkas, Consul General of Israel in New York, who, as a public defender, has been decidedly above average.

Shtauber in London

Lt.-Col. (res.) Tzvi Shtauber, ambassador in London, a former diplomatic advisor to Ehud Barak, completes his two-year term in October. Here’s what Moshe and Ruth Cohn wrote about him in a letter to the Jerusalem Post, July 23:

“We squirmed as the Israeli ambassador, Tzvi Shtauber, read out his speech, not daring to lift his eyes from his papers and speaking in platitudes. The British media bewail the lot of the Palestinian Arabs and condemn our soldiers as they try to keep us safe. The pattern will be repeated if Itzik succeeds Shtauber”.

As a public relations defender of Israel in the world’s second most important capital, Shtauber is a total failure.

Amor in Brussels

Israel has a law (or is it an understanding?) entitling the ruling party/coalition to designate up to 10 appointees as ambassadors. The unashamed reason is to reward party hacks and apparatchiks for past loyalties.

In the PR age of dominance by TV media, bad or non-existent PR can seriously harm a nation like Israel. We can advance when our PR achieves the objectives of our nation. Like it or not, successful PR ability is absolutely essential to this process. Only top caliber PR people can win the minds and hearts of men to our cause.

This requires our ambassadors to be the best persons to carry this onerous responsibility. Those who meet this criterion should get the job. There must be no more rewarding party loyalists with ambassadorships at the expense of our need to be understood and respected among the nations.

Such an appointee was Shaul Amor, Social Worker, former Mayor of Migdal Ha’emek. A lack luster Likud MK who believed he was entitled to better things, he decided to run for President against incumbent Ezer Weizman. Although supported by the Likud, he lost 63 votes to 49. Disheartened he sought to have his wife appointed mayor of Migdal Ha’emek. In this too, incumbent Eli Barda frustrated him.

To ease the importuning of the good and faithful servant, Netanyahu appointed Amor ambassador to Brussels, capital not only of Belgium but of the European Union! No one knew better that Netanyahu what a public relations disaster Shaul Amor would be. Yet that did not stop him donating this prize post to a nonentity. As a public relations champion of Israel in this crucial media arena, Amor has been an utter failure.

The 10 ambassadorial appointees should be reserved for the very best people – those with professional TV presentation skills. We need to bearing in mind that their opponents will mostly be the best the Palestinians have. And that in many instances the TV channel interviewers will espouse the Palestinian cause. BBC is the quite the worst of the anti-Israel networks.

Where effective PR is concerned, Israel’s Foreign Office should realize that TV debating experience, interviewing skills, and English mother tongue fluency count for much more than diplomatic abilities.

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But Not At Israel’s Cost”

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