In a recent post, Marc Goldberg lamented the dearth of skilled diplomats in the Israeli government. In comparison to the successful days of the UN Partition vote and Israeli representatives such as Abba Eban, he claims that we are now destroying our good relationships with the few friends we have left with our bungling and lack of diplomatic tact.
I’m not sure this assessment is correct; an analysis by Bar-Ilan University Professor Efraim Inbar shows that we’re not doing that badly when it comes to international relations. But even allowing that we haven’t been adeptly handling things recently, Goldberg’s analysis suffers from a far more serious lacuna: the other side – be it the world community or specific countries.
Put simply, other countries also have interests which often change due to factors which have nothing to do with Israeli diplomacy or lack thereof, and which can either help or hurt Israel regardless of what it does.
Let me give one important example: the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union’s support for the establishment of Israel both in the UN and through arms deals was critical to the State’s founding. Yet the man who approved this support – Joseph Stalin – was by all accounts an anti-Semite and no lover of Zionism; it was not diplomacy that made him take this path, but a desire to weaken the British presence in the Middle East.
Nor was diplomacy particularly effective at stopping the Soviets from arming Israel’s enemies in the Middle East and giving backing to terrorist groups. The same can be said for the massive diplomatic thaw of countries toward Israel such as India and China in the wake of the Soviet’s collapse in 1991. Israeli diplomacy didn’t suddenly improve in those years, it was simply the political conditions which changed.
The same can be said of the US, which though supporting Israel’s founding was quite cool to any additional assistance until the Johnson administration in spite of lobbying efforts, or France, which was friendly to Israel in the ’50s but then dropped that support when De Gaulle took over and decided that France should align with the Arabs in the following decade.
Marc Goldberg is certainly correct that we could use more skilled diplomats and political finesse in the world arena, but we need to understand that much of what happens in the world arena is not up to us.
We are not alone.