Zalman Shoval served two terms as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. Although I had made his personal acquaintance only briefly during his first term in Washington (1990-1993), it was immediately apparent that Ambassador Shoval was bringing a markedly favorable presence to Israel’s embassy. Elegant and impressively well-educated (he holds an advanced degree in political science and international relations from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva), the Ambassador – whose undergraduate degree is from the University of California at Berkeley – was able to represent Israel’s interests in this country with notable style and enviable success. Not surprisingly, Mr. Shoval was appointed for a second time in July 1998, serving with real distinction until the 15th of January 2000.
There is a great deal more. During the 1978 Camp David Conference, Zalman Shoval directed Israel’s information activities from Washington. He participated in the 1991 Madrid Conference and, later, in negotiations with the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. In 1998, he was a member of the Israeli team headed by then Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Wye River Conference.
Ambassador Shoval’s diplomatic and political accomplishments are legion. In 1970 he entered the Knesset, first until 1981, and then again in 1988, when he served as a Member of the Knesset Foreign and Security Affairs Committee. He resigned from the Knesset in 1990 upon his first appointment as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. All the while, from the late 1950s onward, Zalman Shoval remained very active and important in the economic life of Israel, primarily in banking, finance and industry. Currently, Mr. Shoval is a senior advisor to Prime Minister Sharon on foreign policy issues, unsurprisingly with particular reference to relations with the United States.
The list of Ambassador Shoval’s official accomplishments is formidable, but such a list is already well-known. My intent here is rather to offer a brief personal reflection on this very special man. In this connection, I have known Ambassador Shoval as a serious thinker and scholar, one who has repeatedly gone out of his way to help bring my own Israel-related writings to more purposeful attention. Over the years, I have been honored to coauthor a number of law journal, strategy journal and newspaper op ed articles with Ambassador Shoval, including even a few pieces written expressly for The Jewish Press.
Some years ago, and only a few months after the end of the 1991 Gulf War, Ambassador Shoval invited me to Tel-Aviv to address the Dayan Forum, together with IAF Maj. Gen. Avihu Bin-Nun. Bin-Nun had just ended his distinguished service as Israel Air Force Commander, and my spoken remarks were addressed (critically) to Israel’s (US-mandated) non-retaliation in the wake of 39 Iraqi Scud attacks. It was an extraordinary opportunity for a professor from America’s heartland to enter into public dialogue with Israel’s most senior Air Force Commander, and I accepted the opportunity with considerable zeal. Thanks to Zalman Shoval, that opportunity has led to much continuing interaction between one strategic theorist in far-away Indiana and certain parts of Israel’s security establishment.
Ambassador Shoval, together with a number of friends, founded the Moshe Dayan Public Forum for Political and Social Questions in 1977. (In April 1978, Moshe Dayan, then Foreign Minister, recalled Mr. Shoval to the Foreign Ministry, appointing him as Head of Israel’s Foreign Information Activities.) He is presently a member of all the Likud’s Central Bodies, and had served previously as the elected President of “World Likud,” a post from which he resigned upon his second appointment as Ambassador to Washington.
Several years after my invited appearance before the Dayan Forum, Ambassador Shoval invited me to return to Tel-Aviv to address a Likud Security Group. Again, it offered me an ideal opportunity to share some very timely ideas on terrorism and war with senior Israeli defense and intelligence personalities.
Ambassador Shoval is a prodigious reader, an articulate speaker and an outstanding writer. On one occasion within the past five years, I had asked him to consider the need for an Israeli “brain trust” – a small, private group of superior scholars and retired Israeli military officers which could prepare, on its own, a bold strategic plan for national security and counter-terrorism. With his encouragement of the idea, I gained the confidence to embark upon what is now generally known as “Project Daniel” – a singularly ambitious enterprise. As readers of The Jewish Press know full well, the Final Report of Project Daniel was presented to Prime Minister Sharon in January 2003. Although Ambassador Shoval was not in any way onnected with Project Daniel, our Report – Israel’s Strategic Future – owes much in principle to his commendable attitude of personal encouragement, intellectual discovery, political courage and administrative open mindedness.
For a very long time, Ambassador Zalman Shoval has labored valiantly, prudently and energetically for Israel. We are all in his debt.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, and Chair of “Project Daniel.”