Friday, July 29, 2005

Defeat from the jaws of victory

In the almost five years since the intifada began, many have felt that there has been just cause to bemoan Israel's public relations, particularly with regard to the quality of representatives at our Embassies overseas.

London in particular has been something of a disaster area with the selection process for the current holder of the post proving particularly farcical - Roni Milo, the original nominee, dropping out because his wife didn't fancy a stint in one of the world's great cities, to be replaced by Zvi Hefetz, who was alleged to have lied on his CV, and met with vociferous opposition for leaders of the British community over his lack of English (as did his immediate predecessors, Zvi Shtauber and Dror Zeigerman - truly scraped from the bottom of the barrel).

The incredible irony therefore, of having DJ Schneeweiss' appointment as Deputy Ambassador nixed by the Jerusalem Labour Court, can't be missed. Schneeweiss is one of the brightest stars in the Foreign Ministry constellation, a native English speaker, erudite, smart and a superb Israel advocate. A previous, successful stint as Press Secretary in the London Embassy made an excellent impression on the UK community and prepared the ground for him to push Israel's case.

Currently serving as an advisor to Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, it appears that his boss being present on the selection committee was one of the factors that led to his being disqualified, yet Schneeweiss is a career diplomat who went through the appropriate channels according to his merits - so many inappropriate appointments have been made as a result of a political mentor; why disqualify a top notch person because his boss notices that he's good at his job and wants to promote him?

The British community is angry and rightly so - this is a serious own goal in the battle to make sure that we have proper representation in our most important embassies around the world.



Zoe Strickman said...

I don't know how you're able to write about stuff like this -- I wouldn't even have the knowledge to know where to start. Kudos to you. Very good article.

Michael Lawrence said...

Own goals are an Israeli invention I believe.
I watched Silvan Shalom getting interviewed on Sky News UK a few nights ago. It was a lenghty piece of about 10 minutes. He was fairly intelligent sounding and said most of the appropriate things but his English verges on ridiculous. The typical Israel 'errr pause, umm, errr" sequence came up at least once every 20 seconds. And when the English is terrible, obviously the message is unclear.
We all know that Saeb Erekat and the like are effective cos you can drink your English tea and biscuits while you listen. With Silvan you need to concentrate and translate in your head.
He might be an OK FM diplomacy- wise, but we need English speakers - desperately!
I'll certainly be using that interview for my future Israel Advocacy Trainging Courses.

Anonymous said...

Well done Gilly, you are spot on and I whole heartedly agree. Believe me, this is only the tip of the iceberg...
(from a former Embassy employee!)