Netanyahu’s Diplomacy of Absurdity

As the dust settles after President Obama’s charm offensive, Israeli and American diplomats are set to begin working together on a wide range of issues discussed between the US President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. These include additional steps towards reconciliation with Turkey, gestures of good faith towards the Palestinians in an attempt to restart the flailing peace negotiations and securing additional US funding for the Iron Dome defense system. ¬†Of course American diplomats will soon face a strange dilemma regarding the identity of their Israeli counterparts.

Normally, officials in the State Department would work alongside Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. This however might prove problematic for two reasons. First, there is no Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs only one in absentia as Avigdor Lieberman is facing trial on counts of fraud and breach of trust. Secondly, Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear in his previous term that Lieberman’s comments and opinions as Minister of Foreign Affairs do not represent the position of the State of Israel. This begs the question, who do you have to talk around here to in order to understand the position of the State of Israel? The Chairman of the Hadassah Women’s Organization?

Amidst this turmoil, US officials might turn to the newly appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zeev Elkin who like many officials in the new Netanyahu government boasts an impressive record making him the right man for his new ministerial appointment. After all, in addition to being an immigrant and a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mr. Elkin also served on the Knesset’s Subcommittee for Out of Space. Thus, the Deputy Minister will be able to coordinate international diplomacy on both Earth and Mars.

But the buck doesn’t stop with Mr. Elkin. American officials will also have to contact Gilad Arden, newly appointed Home Front Defense and Communications Minster, member of the Cabinet and the Minister responsible for the Strategic Dialogue with the United States. While this title may seem long to some, and more befitting of a British Monarch than a minister, it is no longer than that of former Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz who is now the Minister of Strategy, Intelligence and International Relations Matters. As such, Mr. Steinitz will also have to be consulted by the American State Department should their strategic dialogue with Minister Erdan include matters of stagey or intelligence. Indeed it seems that the Americans will need someone of the upmost intelligence in order to figure out just who to consider as their Israeli counterpart.

Lastly, let us not forget that while matters of strategy and intelligence could refer to the Iranian threat, the turmoil in Syria and the instability in Egypt, should these matters pertain to the Middle East Peace Process, Minister of Justice Tzipi Livney will also have to be contacted given her responsibility for the negotiations with the Palestinians.

While officials in the American State Department are fluent in a multitude of languages only one verse in Yiddish can express how perplex they will become while dealing with Netanyahu’s new government- Oy Vey!

It’s fair to say that in forming his third government Prime Minister Netanyahu has created a new domestic policy, the diplomacy of absurdity, resulting in a scenario in which everyone and no one is in charge of formalizing Israel’s foreign policy. In accordance with his liberal economic ideology, the Prime Minister has essentially privatized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, chopped it up into pieces and sold these pieces to various interested parties.

However, as is usually the case with Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s privatization schemes, this diplomacy of absurdity could potentially harm Israel as the various ministers in charge of its foreign policy will be more interested in fighting over ministerial territory than with discussing the fate of the occupied territories. It is possible that this internal bickering is just what the PM is counting on. In a divide and conquer mentality, Netanyahu may be hoping that his minister’s will be too busy fighting with each other than with actually achieving anything enabling him to maintain his cherished status quo with the Arab world.

In the early 1970’s, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously remarked that Israel has no foreign policy only a domestic one. With the swearing in of Israel’s 33rd government, and the adoption of the diplomacy of absurdity, this statement is as relevant today as it was forty years ago.

About the Author
Ilan Manor is finishing his mass media studies at Tel Aviv University. He has previously contributed to the Jerusalem Post, +972 Magazine, the Jewish Daily Forward and On Second Thought magazine. His Hebrew-language blog has been featured several times in the Israeli press.