BUT THE ISSUE of a separate agenda is not the only problem that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has. Another problem relates to the general decline in the importance of the Foreign Ministry in an era when heads of state talk with each other daily on cellular telephones and coordinate matters of policy without involving the ambassadors; in an era when participation between states in many varied areas (economic, financial, cultural, artistic, academic, military, security and more) are routinely carried out without the involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; in an era when every citizen who publicizes and/or distributes an article, clip or photograph on the Internet becomes a national spokesman; in an era when the media go over the heads of the officials of the bureaucracy and bring the words of the government and prime minister to every living room the world over and in an age when the ambassador of a country is at most an official who is in charge of carrying out what others ask him to do. How many Israelis know the names of the Israeli ambassadors in Paris, London or Moscow?
In the newly formed government, there is a minister responsible for foreign policy, and another minister who is responsible for relations with the U.S.
The conclusion to be drawn from all of the above is that because of the external changes as well as the way the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs functions, this ministry has become an office of minor importance and little influence on what happens inside Israel as well as between Israel and other countries. To me, the ministries of health, transportation, infrastructures and the interior are more important, influential and meaningful to both present and future matters of the state in Israel than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and perhaps the time has come to say openly that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has become nothing more than the coordinator of government activities in foreign countries.
Even now, Israeli representatives serve as a base for professional activities of branches of other ministries – interior, security and the IDF, industry, commerce and tourism, police – while the diplomatic function of an ambassador has been considerably limited.
INSTEAD OF of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs leading government policy, the government should take the Ministry of Foreign Affairs out of the circles of true and important decision-making. A ministry whose intellectual approach is mired in the political agenda of a minority, becomes less and less relevant when the dreamers from the school of Shimon Peres and the “New Middle East” get slapped in the face by the reality of the Middle East. I propose to examine the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the slots for staff, and to direct them into more important, effective and relevant channels for the Israeli people after the era of the rule of the “Akhusalim.”
*Translator’s note: Azmi Bishara is an Arab former member of Knesset who fled Israel after being suspected of transferring information to the enemy during wartime.