The world’s media and diplomats love to paint Binyamin Netanyahu as “hardline”, Avigdor Liberman as to the right of Attila the Hun, and the cabinet in general as “the most right wing ever!“. All I can say to that is “I wish!” It is something that I personally have been complaining about on this blog for years. The sad truth is that this government is one of the most dysfunctional and incompetent, at least as far as fighting delegitmization, BDS, and other lawfare efforts are concerned.
The State Comptroller himself slammed the government for its dysfunctional leadership in the battle against BDS: (emphases are mine):
The Foreign Ministry has no overall strategy, lacks funds and is failing to achieve its goals in the battle against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, a damning state comptroller’s report charged on Tuesday.
“A lack of cooperation between the Foreign Ministry and the army spokesman, and a lack of speed in getting information to the media, brought about an advocacy failure during Operation Protective Edge,” the report says, using the army moniker for the conflict.
… the ministry “has a hard time presenting achievements relating to efforts to delegitimize Israel around the world: in academic circles, culture, trade unions and the general public in the target countries.”
An amalgamation of various minor ministries that were created over the past 10 years to provide government roles for coalition partners, the Strategic Affairs Ministry was given specific responsibility for dealing with BDS in 2013. The report, however, says that the division of work between it and the Foreign Ministry was never clearly defined.
“Not only was there no cooperation between the new [ministry] and the Foreign Ministry, but there was an active power struggle between the two over responsibilities and resources,” the report says.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently the foreign minister, while the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Relations, headed by Gilad Erdan, also falls under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Shapira’s report said that a number of ministries dealing with foreign policy showed a lack of structural management and cooperation between the different bodies.
The confusion can be dated back to the ministerial appointments following the March 2015 elections.
Refusing to appoint a full-time foreign minister, Netanyahu kept the job for himself and tapped Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely as his deputy. He tasked then-interior minister Silvan Shalom, who recently resigned amid claims of sexual harassment, with heading up any future peace talks with the Palestinians, and made Naftali Bennett the diaspora minister and Gilad Erdan minister for public diplomacy and strategic affairs.
The report also pointed to a lack of budget for Foreign Ministry, and recommended an increase in the ministry’s funding in the annual state budget.
According to figures revealed in a May meeting of the Knesset Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs and Public Diplomacy, only about eight percent of the Foreign Ministry’s annual budget is used for diplomatic activity, with the rest spent on manpower, security and other logistical and administrative needs.
In 2015, just NIS 132 million ($33 million) of the ministry’s total budget of NIS 1.65 billion ($423 million) was spent on what officials call diplomatic activities: development aid, conferences and hasbara (public diplomacy). By comparison, the ministry paid significantly more — NIS 231 million ($59 million), or 14% of the annual budget — on security for Israeli missions abroad.
[New Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman and former finance minister Yair Lapid] lamented plans to close Israeli embassies and consulates across the globe and called on Netanyahu to appoint a full-time foreign minister and immediately embark on diplomatic initiatives to improve the country’s international standing.
Yesh Atid leader Lapid further decried the fact that only one half of one percent of the national state budget goes to the Foreign Ministry and that its responsibilities have been delegated to various other ministries.
“Israeli hasbara is spread out over five ministries, and none knows what the others are doing. It doesn’t have to be like that,” he said. “We can win. Israel can be accepted and beloved and its version of things can be heard. But we need to work on it. It’s possible.”
The Foreign Ministry’s budget for public advocacy stands at a mere NIS 5 million ($1.28 million) per year, Liberman said at the time. “What campaign against BDS [the anti-Israel boycott, divest and sanctions movement] can we talk about?”
It is quite clear from this report that the buck stops at Bibi Netanyahu. He may be a consummate politician but he is not a leader, at least not during this current premiership. All it would take is for him to appoint a full-time Foreign Minister and show leadership from the top to solve most if not all of these problems.
If all this isn’t bad enough, do not think you can rely on the IDF to have a handle on matters. It seems as if their incompetence is as great as the leadership which instructs them. Yesterday a Knesset sub-committee discovered that the IDF has no idea how many Palestinians actually live in Judea and Samaria!
The “demographic argument” is often used by those advocating for Israeli territorial concessions – namely, that the Arab population will surpass the number of Jews in Israel unless it withdraws from all or most of Judea an Samaria.
However, recent studies have cast doubts upon the Palestinian Authority’s alleged population figures, which some experts claim have been massively inflated and which allegedly mask massive emigration figures.
At a special meeting Tuesday of the Knesset Subcommittee of Civil Affairs and Security in Judea and Samaria, initiated by Subcommittee Chairman MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), the head of the IDF’s Civil Administration admitted he had no idea how many Arabs live in the region.
Lt. Col. Ayal Ze’evi told MKs he didn’t have any firm statistics on the number of Palestinian Arabs living in Area C – the region of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli control, and where all Jewish communities in Judea-Samaria are located.
How is it possible that they don’t have accurate figures for the people living under our own control? This is almost criminally negligent.
Furthermore, a representative of the Immigration and Population Authority admitted that his office has “no figures concerning the matter of emigration abroad from the Arabs of Judea and Samaria over the past decade.”
The topic of emigration is a crucial one, given recent claims that the Arab population in Judea and Samaria is actually shrinking as many seek better employment opportunities outside the corrupt Palestinian Authority in the Gulf States and elsewhere.
MK Yogev explained that without establishing precise figures on the Palestinian Arab population it would be impossible “to adapt the infrastructure, for example, or the numbers of schools, to the appropriate numbers.”
The only figures the IDF and government can “rely” on (and that is a very broad interpretation of the term) are those from the Palestinian Authority, which are known to be notoriously unreliable:
Lt. Col. Ze’evi said that the only figures he had were from the Palestinian Authority, whose Population Registry claims there are some 2.93 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria holding PA identity cards – i.e. excluding the Arab population of Jerusalem, who hold Israeli residency permits. But he noted the PA’s figures were not at all transparent, and there is no way to independently verify their accuracy.
He also claimed that many Palestinian families register their children at the Population Registry and then leave the region, resulting in an inflated count.
Moreover, the PA’s population figures have fluctuated wildly over the years, backing claims by critics that PA officials are inflating or even making their statistics up.
In contrast, a recent survey revealed how the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria continues to grow rapidly, defying US-imposed building freezes and waves of Arab terrorism.
At the end of the day we have an incompetent government which is too busy trying to survive politically by making strange coalition agreements and handing out portfolios like sweets to children, but where many of those ministries barely function at all in any meaningful manner.
And then there is the vaunted IDF, which might know how to chase terrorists and shoot down Iranian missiles, and certainly knows how to evict harmless settlers from Judea and Samaria – but has now had its hands tied yet again by its own top brass who has changed the rules of engagement to disallow “neutralizing” terrorists if they no longer constitute a direct threat to the soldiers at the scene. This means that a terrorist who is throwing rocks or firebombs at civilian traffic and then runs away empty handed may be arrested but can no longer be shot at or otherwise neutralized. Which makes him a further and greater threat to more Israeli civilians and soldiers and only encourages more attacks.
And meanwhile the same IDF has no idea how many Palestinians, terrorists or not, are actually living in these areas.
The Israeli people deserve much better leadership, both from their politicians and from their military. For shame!