Foreign Ministry can be Influential Again – Ynet

Dear Minister,As begin your tenure as foreign minister I have a word of advice for you: Seize. Seize the opportunity you have been given to finally transform your ministry into a leader on Israel’s foreign policy scene.For 58 years the foreign ministry has served as a sort of golden cage for prime ministers to lock up confirmed rivals and incompetents who possessed political powe. Unfortunately, prime ministers who sought to neutralize political opponents found in the foreign ministry an ideal combination of prestige and irrelevance. Real foreign policy was made and conducted from the prime minister’s office and the ministry of defense. This power structure was established at the time of Ben-Gurion and it has not changed sense. If anything, in recent years the foreign ministry has been weakened even further.Now, for the first time in our history, the foreign minister is not a rival of the prime minister or an incompetent that has risen to power by virtue of politics alone. You enjoy the political support of the Prime Minister, your party and the public. You are appreciated for your capabilities and composure. Therefore, you have a rare opportunity to right a long-standing distortion and transform the foreign ministry into a true Israeli equivalent of the U.S. State Department.Intentionally weakThe Foreign Ministry suffers from decades of intentional enfeeblement. Its lowly status runs from top to bottom. Ministry officials are not invited to attend sensitive security discussions and are not asked to contribute their policy analyses. Foreign and security department officials at the ministry of defense ignore them, and on the rare occasions they are invited for consultations it is only for purposes of preventing political discord.On all key agenda matters, such as the Hamas, nuclear Iran, the security fence, relations with Egypt and Jordan, policy towards Syria and Lebanon and of-course relations with the U.S., the Foreign Ministry’s voice is not heard. It does not lead policy making; at most, it follows.The Ministry also fails to take the lead on foreign policy thinking in matters that are not in the center of attention, even though they are important, such as relations with the UN, the EU, Russia, China and India. As a result, foreign policy thinking on the political level tends to be narrow and focused on the US and the Palestinians and favors immediate responses over long-term thinking.Build the ministryNow that you are foreign minister, make it your goal to place the ministry in a position of leadership. Build the mechanisms that will allow you to shape policy: strengthen the National Security Council, work with outside think tanks and anyone who can contribute fresh perspectives. Support the best people in your office and take care that Israeli representatives abroad will be of the highest quality. Regardless of whether you nominate people from within the ministry or from without, make sure that they represent Israel in the best manner and most importantly, help you formulate new policy by being attuned to new directions, trends and ideas. Turn your ambassadors into agents of new thinking rather than old-fashioned diplomats.It’s up to you. If you hesitate, you will fail. If you wait to be given, you will never receive. Seize the opportunity you’ve been given. Make sure that four years from now, your job performance summary says you have left behind a strong ministry, one that has lead groundbreaking thinking in key areas, broadened Israel’s foreign policy perspective and most importantly, become the key player in the making of Israel’s foreign policy.Do this, and you will have a legacy to be proud of.To read the original on the ynet website.