An Israeli diplomat with over 30 years of foreign service experience has quit his job in disgust, saying he can no longer defend or interpret to a foreign audience the policies of his government under the leadership of Bibi Netanyahu or Avigdor Lieberman. Ilan Baruch, a decorated IDF veteran, served in numerous major diplomatic postings including stints as ambassador to South Africa and the Philipines. Several months ago, after one too many stiff diplomatic cables from Lieberman chiding his colleagues for braying insufficiently loudly on behalf of Israel, Baruch decided he’d had enough. He put in his papers and retired though he was not scheduled to do so for several more years.
He wrote a letter to his colleagues in which he noted a few of reasons for ending his career prematurely:
“Over the past two years the political and diplomatic messages by the state’s leaders, which have grown more pointed, have infuriated me and given me no rest. I find it difficult to represent them and explain them honestly.”
…Baruch said there is a great deal of frustration brimming below the surface at the Foreign Ministry.
The veteran diplomat explained the genesis of his discontent:
…He sensed an initial warning sign, he added, the day Lieberman took office as foreign minister and gave a speech in which he rejected the possibility of peace with the Palestinians.
“Lieberman completely denied [Israel’s] role in the failure of the peace process,” Baruch said. “The outcome is not good and it is not only because of the Palestinians’ conduct.”
Baruch is not alone is his “disgust” at the course Israel’s diplomatic efforts are taking:
“It has become impossible to explain Israel to others these days,” one ambassador said. “There is no clear policy and it is very difficult to respond to international criticism.”Another ambassador said: “The diplomatic impasse is dangerous to the State of Israel, and it doesn’t seem as if the prime minister has a solution in the form of a diplomatic initiative. Under such circumstances, the international community will simply force a solution on us.”
It is always tempting in circumstances like this to read too much into the courageous act of one individual. One wants to see a groundswell of opposition and hopes that this is but the beginning. But the truth is that Israel’s Occupation regime is entrenched. There are many others in the system waiting for their chance to replace someone of Baruch’s high rank. His leaving may only be a blip on the screen.
Nevertheless, it is a cri de coeur that some will hear and heed both within the foreign ministry and perhaps outside it.
This article first appeared at Tikun Olam