Yaakov Livne
Al-Monitor (Opinion)
December 10, 2012 - 1:00am

Israel experienced in the past weeks two highly significant events that have far-reaching implications for its future. The first was Operation Pillar of Defense, and the other was the UN General Assembly resolution to grant Palestine the status of an observer state in the international body, which is another step toward recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a full-fledged state.

In Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel demonstrated that it was not willing to put up with Hamas' threats, nor was it helpless in face of those threats. It hit Hamas militarily in Gaza and on the home front, having deployed the Iron Dome across the country, it was all set to meet the barrage of rockets expected from Hamas. In the aftermath of the operation, it may be said definitely that Israel has unequivocally shown that any attack on its civilian population centers in the south would be retaliated against with full force. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has contributed its noteworthy share to the military operation by its intensive diplomatic activity and effective PR campaign, presenting to the world the true picture of the menace of terror.

However, having scored a success on the military front, Israel has failed to cope in the diplomatic arena with the Palestinian Authority’s bid to gain unilateral statehood recognition at the United Nations.

Our diplomatic failures in recent years are indeed quite surprising, as Israel boasted an impressive past record in the diplomatic arena. Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, we had two unprecedented achievements: the Balfour Declaration, stating that the British government favored the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and would do its best to facilitate its achievement, and the UN General Assembly resolution of Nov. 29, 1947, calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.

Over the years, the State of Israel has increasingly focused on the consolidation of the Israel Defense Forces, while its diplomatic endeavors, by virtue of which international legitimacy had been gained for the State of Israel, were pushed aside. The budgets allocated to the Foreign Ministry have been cut, the number of diplomatic envoys reduced and Israeli consulates abroad closed. We have disregarded the fact that in the absence of international support, we cannot survive.

In the last few years, the world has undergone political upheavals on a scale unseen for a generation. The Middle East, which was shaped by foreign powers, is naturally affected by the surrounding turmoil and is itself changing right before our eyes. And while the existential struggle waged by Israel is ever more dependent on diplomacy, the international arena has now become our Achilles heel.

The Iron Dome system was built in response to the ongoing rocket attacks on Israel. However, we are now threatened by diplomatic “missiles” and we have to come up with an appropriate response to this threat, as well. We have to hire more diplomats and to make it worthwhile for our best civil servants to stay in diplomatic service; we have to keep up the efforts to upgrade our PR system, to reach out to target audiences that are unfamiliar with us and tighten relations with those that know us. A lot has been done in recent years, but there is still much left to do.

What Israel needs is a system capable of identifying potential dangers in the arena of international relations and intercepting them. To that end, more ample means have to be allocated to the promotion of our interests in the international arena. A diplomatic “Iron Dome” is essential to our survival at this point, no less so than its military counterpart.


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