Israeli NGO asks foreign minister to cut ties with former diplomats who trash Israel abroad

Such behavior violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Civil Servants’ Code of Ethics, says NGO Mattot Arim.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

An Israeli NGO demanded Tuesday that the foreign minister cut all ties to former diplomats who use their titles to get publicity abroad for anti-government agendas, thereby blackening Israel’s name.

A Facebook post last month by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi caught the eye of Zionist group Mattot Arim. The minister wrote that he had met with veterans of his ministry to hear their suggestions and learn from their “rich experience.”

He told them, “I see you as diplomats who have been drafted as reservists to serve the country.”

NGO spokesperson Susie Dym warned Ashkenazi that some of these retirees are not defending the state.

“We would like to draw your attention to an ugly phenomenon in which veterans of the foreign ministry, including diplomats and very senior personnel, publicly promote diplomatic attacks against the State of Israel,” Dym wrote to Ashkenazi.

Dym pointed to letters published abroad over the past five years in which senior former ambassadors used their titles in an effort to influence European governments and the American Democratic party to act against official Israeli policy, with which they disagreed.  The most recent example occurred just weeks before Ashkenazi met the group that he praised on Facebook.

Using their titles as “former Israeli ambassadors,” Colette Avital, former Israeli consul-general New York, and Ilan Baruch, former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, wrote a letter published in May in the Irish Times urging Dublin to enact an anti-Israel bill “to challenge the incoming Government of Israel’s ominous plans for annexation…and protect the two-state solution.”

Overtly contradicting Jerusalem’s policy backed by the United States that settlements are not illegal, they also echoed specious claims made by countries antagonistic to Israel that “annexation…runs the risk of turning Israel into an apartheid state.”

The NGO demanded that Ashkenazi consider such behavior as violating the Civil Servants’ Code of Ethics and stop meeting former foreign ministry personnel who act against Israel’s interests.

World Israel News asked Dym how former employees could violate a code of ethics that applies to active personnel.

“The code requires civil servants to ‘refrain from taking action which does harm to the State of Israel’ and requires them to ‘honor the branches of government,’” she responded. “This applies even to low-level and low-visibility civil servants. It certainly applies to people who identify themselves as former ambassadors, using their former status to bolster their Israel-bashing activities which include urging foreign elements to sanction the State of Israel.”

“A Code of Ethics can and should apply to retirees, mostly if they are senior retirees with public visibility,” Dym said. “For example, the State of Israel’s Code of Ethics for judges states that ‘it is appropriate for a retired judge to continually keep in mind the spirit of’ the Code of Ethics’ and that he should ‘direct his behavior and deportment accordingly.’ Ambassadors should be no different.”

Dym said that Mattot Arim is not asking Ashkenazi to initiate legal action against such diplomats, as a democracy should not limit anyone’s freedom of speech.

However, “We are saying that the minister should tell the retired diplomatic community off in no uncertain terms and insist, firmly but informally, that such behavior must stop,” she explained. “If the retired diplomatic community insists on continuing to tolerate this behavior in their midst, the foreign minister should then refuse to accept their informal advice or meet with them.

“The question of whom a minister should look to for advice and counsel is an informal matter which is subject to ministerial discretion. So the minister should protect Israel’s reputation by not taking advice from anyone who disrespectfully bites the hand that fed them in the past.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to respond to Mattot Arim’s letter.