Netanyahu Tells Knesset Panel: We Have Defeated the BDS Movement
Prime minster tells Knesset committee meeting on Israel's Foreign Ministry and Hasbara that he does not intend to maintain control over the foreign affairs portfolio forever.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the State Control Committee that Israel has defeated the BDS movement and he does not intend to hold the foreign affairs portfolio indefinitely, during a session on the Foreign Ministry and Israel's public diplomacy policy on Monday in the Knesset.
Netanyahu also said that for now no Palestinian partner for peace exists, and he defended his personal lawyer Isaac Molho, who serve's Netanyahu's personal representative for various diplomatic missions.
The session is the first significant and open meeting about the Foreign Ministry since Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009. Netanyahu has also kept the role of foreign minister since the elections were held last year. The session was held to discuss two reports State Comptroller Yosef Shapira published on May 24 exposing a list of Israeli failures against the BDS movement and in the state Hasbara (public diplomacy) system.
Shapira pointed to an erosion of authority in the ministry, with roles having been transferred to other ministries. He also said there was a lack of coordination and power struggles taking place among the various ministries.
Shapira said that these transfers of responsibility had hurt the government's struggle against BDS, anti-Semitism and global attempts to delegitimize Israel, as well as Israel's public diplomacy (hasbara) abroad.
Committee chairwoman MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) opened the meeting, saying that since the March 2015 election Israel has not had a full-time foreign minister.
In response, Netanyahu said: "I have dealt with the Foreign Ministry for 35 years. I think I understand something about it."
Netanyahu pulled out a world map, color-coded to illustrate how Israel's foreign relations have improved. "People say we are isolated," Netanyahu said. "What isolation are we talking about?"
Netanyahu said that "we are acting against BDS and this why they are on the defensive," adding that "they are taking hits of many fronts. We have beaten them."
He continued that "I do not accept the claim that all foreign policy issues should be dealt with by the Foreign Ministry"
In response to the claims he had dismantled the Foreign Ministry and divided up its responsibilities, Netanyahu said: "I examine things according to results …. Foreign policy is made by the prime minister and that is obvious."
"Soon I will release myself from a number of portfolios and this will make it easier for me to deal with tasks I define as important," he added.
In a remark aimed at Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Netanyahu said: "Hasbara [public diplomacy] is not a goal in its own right, unless you are a virtual politician and deal with a virtual world."
A representative of the State Comptroller's Office told the committee that the Foreign Ministry had been continuously weakened internally, including administratively and in terms of manpower, as well as in the professional planning of diplomacy. This includes the relationship between the Foreign Ministry and the defense establishment, as well as redundant responsibilities between the Foreign Ministry and other ministries.
Netanyahu dismissed the claims by the State Comptroller's Office during the meeting: "You are dealing with processes – I don't deal with processes. Processes are important but results are more important." At one point, Netanyahu forced Elharar to show a clip of him shaking hands with many world leaders.
Elharar and other MKs questioned the coordination between the various government bodies that deal with hasbara, as well as Shapira's complaints about the failures during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of Gaza in 2014.
Netanyahu rejected such claims and said: The supreme test is whether they will tie our hands when we need to defend ourselves." He added that during the two most recent Gaza military operations, no one was able to force a UN Security Council resolution on Israel.
He added that "if not for Israel's diplomatic action and other actions, Iran would have obtained nuclear weapons long ago." Concerning the criticism of his address to the U.S. Congress on the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu noted that "President Obama spoke directly to the British people on Brexit."
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