Favoritism and Cronyism Infuriates Israeli Foreign Service Professionals

Foreign service professionals are furious with Shimon Peres, who took office as Foreign Minister last week, for what they see as political appointments and preferential treatment for a selected few in his efforts to re-organize the Ministry.

They are also angry with Premier Yitzhak Shamir for alleged cronyism in last minute appointments and promotions he made before switching jobs with Peres under the Labor-Likud rotation of power agreement.

Peres ran into an increasingly bitter conflict with the Foreign Ministry Staff Committee which threatened Tuesday to lodge a complaint with the Supreme Court over his decision to divide the office of Foreign Ministry Director General.

The decision, approved by the Cabinet, was to appoint Avraham Tamir Director General and former Cabinet Secretary Yossi Beilin as Political Director General. Tamir, who served as Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office under Peres, accepted the dual appointment reluctantly. It was necessary in order to create a senior Foreign Ministry post for Beilin, a close Labor Party associate of Peres, whose nomination to be Israel’s next Ambassador to Washington was vetoed by Likud. Peres himself has not concealed his anger over the cool reception he received from career diplomats when he assumed his new office. As a result, he is working mainly with his own political staff to the exclusion of Foreign Ministry professionals and this has further aroused the ire of the professionals.

They also balked at Peres’ insistence that Minister-Without-Portfolio Ezer Weizman and his aides be housed within the Foreign Ministry precincts. Weizman previously served under Peres in the Prime Ministers Office as liaison for Arab affairs.

The professionals are no less bitter over Shamir’s reappointment for an additional two years of nine political Ambassadors, men from outside the foreign service who were installed in embassies abroad when Shamir was Prime Minister in the Likud-led government in 1984, before the national unity coalition was established.

They are uncomfortable with Shamir’s decision to grant the personal rank of Ambassador to six Foreign Ministry officials widely seen as his personal friends, at the expense of more senior, experienced diplomats.

Peres himself is unhappy with Shamir’s appointments. Some observers believe that his shared grievances with the professionals in those cases will eventually lead to a rapprochement between the new Foreign Minister and the Ministry staff.

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