In the practice of diplomacy it is not enough simply to represent your country abroad or to put its policies in the best light possible. It is not enough to give speeches and throw a party on your country’s national day. It is also necessary to faithfully and accurately report back to your political masters on the attitudes and atmospherics of the country in which you serve. The best are keen observers whose cables home can affect history. One thinks of George Kennan, whose cable from Moscow in 1946 – later published in Foreign Affairs under the pen name X – set the parameters of containment which set the course of US policy in the Cold War.
Thus I was disheartened to read that Israel’s consul general in Boston, Nadav Tamir, had been caught in the growing quarrel between the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration over Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Whereas the Bush administration gave Israel a green light to do what it willed vis-a-vis the occupied territories, President Obama wants to bring about the peace that Bill Clinton came so close to obtaining but failed. Obama wants a complete settlement freeze; Netanyahu does not, and a full-blown rift between Israel and its all-important ally is opening.
Tamir is being recalled to Jerusalem, reportedly to be scolded, because he wrote an internal memo that said the settlement dispute was doing “strategic damage to Israel’’ because it was alienating the American administration. The memo was subsequently leaked.
Given the Northeast’s universities and intellectual centers, the Boston consulate is a good listening post for diplomats – especially during Democratic administrations when it often seems that Harvard and MIT empty out into government jobs in Washington. Barack Obama may have been born in Hawaii, and came to politics via Chicago, but Harvard Law School also had an influence on him. If Nadav Tamir had not sent a cable to his government warning that his country risked alienating its all-important ally, he would have been remiss in his duties as Israel’s man in New England. [continued…]
Leaders of Boston’s Jewish community yesterday rallied strongly behind Israel’s consul general for New England, Nadav Tamir, who was summoned to Jerusalem this week to explain his controversial memo saying Israel’s handling of its relations with the United States was “causing strategic damage’’ to American public support for Israel.
That confidential memo to Tamir’s superiors was leaked to an Israeli television station last week, prompting angry criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others. Yesterday, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, criticized the memo as “not the work of a professional,’’ and said it contained more opinion than data.
But in Boston, several influential Jewish leaders defended Tamir. They said that in his three years in Boston as consul general, he has won widespread respect for his integrity and his intelligent approach to building relations within the community and with non-Jews – and they look forward to having him finish out his final year here. [continued…]
The Russian Jewish community of Boston is over 50 thousand people strong. We are roughly one fifth of Massachusetts’ Jewish population. We are an active, organized, and charitable community. Our community raises hundreds of thousands of dollars, every year, that we spend on programs in Israel. Nadav Tamir knows us, he regularly attends our annual events where he can see hundreds of Russian Jews, our American friends, and our deep love for the Land of Israel and our brethren there. Somehow before writing his letter, he never solicited our opinion. Somehow, when it came to his ideological preferences, the Russian Jews of Boston became invisible to him.
This leads to the following sad, but necessary request. By issuing his incompetent, unprofessional, and partisan letter, Nadav Tamir proved that he is not a diplomat, but an ideologue. We are respectfully asking the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to recall Nadav Tamir from Boston. Please send us a diplomat who could learn, listen, and represent Israel without being ashamed of his country, and without sacrificing her interest to personal ideological preferences and future career aspirations. [continued…]