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Diplomatic Missions

Binyamin Rose

Diplomacy is more than just saying the right thing at the right time, or refraining from saying the wrong thing at any time. It is an art, whose brushstrokes include establishing relationships, negotiating, persuading, and also resolving conflicting interests, not the least of which is how to reconcile one’s own personal and family needs with a life on the road. Four seasoned members of Israel’s diplomatic corps tell the story of how they cope.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Being diplomatic isn’t always easy, especially under pressure. But working as a diplomat involves much more than keeping one’s cool, or being able to deliver a slick, scripted statement to the press.

As it unfolds on global turf, life in the diplomatic corps entails the excitement and rigors of world travel, but it also demands a lifetime of adjustments to new countries, faces, languages, and customs, often while moving a young and growing family every couple of years.

Israelmaintains diplomatic relations with approximately 150 nations in the world. For Israeli diplomats, an assignment to a coveted diplomatic posting overseas is the culmination of three to five years of postgraduate education and training. Only about one percent of the diplomats in training survive the grueling and competitive process.

The State Public Service Commission Tender for diplomatic posts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the principal mechanism for recruiting diplomats into the Israeli foreign service.

All candidates must pass written examinations, undergo a special assessment, and be interviewed by a public committee. Target recruits are Israeli citizens who earned at least a BA in economics,Middle Eaststudies, international relations, or public administration.

Candidates who pass the initial muster enter a five-year cadet course, where they acquire knowledge in fields relevant to Israeli diplomacy while obtaining and polishing the skills of the trade, including mastering foreign languages, information technology, and basic diplomatic and public communications skills.

They also receive on-the-job training in various departments of the foreign ministry before being assigned an entry-level position in one ofIsrael’s missions abroad.

Advanced training during the course of a diplomat’s professional career include economics, management, and multilateral diplomacy, along with optional courses in art, music, religions, and cultures. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also dispatches diplomats for courses abroad offered by the United Nations and the European Union, or by universities such as Harvard.

Diplomats additionally receive annual ongoing training from heads of missions and government ministers. While not every diplomat advances to the rank of ambassador, which is more often than not a political appointment, there are dozens of junior-ranking officials such as consuls, who deal with citizens’ affairs, and a variety of positions for press relations, cultural attachés, and political officers.

We recently participated in a roundtable discussion with four seasoned Israeli diplomats who now work in insider positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after having been stationed overseas for several years — including a husband and wife team who met while taking the cadet course.

 

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