Even if the policy of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was flawed, Tamir’s outburst was inexcusable. A diplomat is appointed to serve the government elected by the people. If he feels that the policies he is obliged to present are so diametrically counter to his beliefs that he must publicly express his opposition, he has the choice of resigning and launching a political campaign against the government. Unfortunately Tamir acted as though he could have his cake and eat it too.
The role of a diplomat includes conveying – through discrete, appropriate channels – evaluations of the political situation in his region. Clearly the role of a local consul general is not to distribute memoranda providing his personal assessment of the government policies at the national level. That is the province of an ambassador (to whom Tamir should report) who would ensure that if appropriate, such reviews or assessments are channeled to the appropriate authority in Jerusalem.
But Tamir bypassed the ambassador and distributed his memo to a wide distribution list.
Were the Foreign Ministry to be transformed into an arena in which individual diplomats could freely and widely promote and distribute their political views or agendas it would become totally dysfunctional.
Tamir’s behavior has no bearing on his political outlook or the specific issues involved. As a civil servant, he breached the ultimate red line. No Foreign Ministry or State Department in any country would tolerate such behavior. Just imagine a United States Consul, without the approval of his Ambassador, distributing a memorandum containing wide-ranging criticisms of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies and circulating such a document throughout the State Department. He would undoubtedly be terminated.
The Boston Jewish community leaders who are defending their consul general are doing everyone, including themselves, a disservice. Tamir’s abilities and track record has absolutely no bearing on this matter. What is at stake is the clear obligation of a civil servant, especially a diplomat, to recognize that his role is limited to representing his government. His irresponsibility is magnified by the fact that as he is a local diplomat, a consul general, giving national evaluations is totally beyond his area of responsibility. Even if is his evaluations were entirely correct, he was operating beyond his jurisdiction.
The call by the Israeli left-wing media to transform Tamir, an irresponsible junior diplomat, into a martyr for “daring to tell the truth” combines an ideological agenda with an extension of efforts to discredit Foreign Minister Lieberman. There is little doubt as to how the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-foreign minister Shimon Peres would have responded if a consul of Tamir’s caliber had circulated such a memorandum critical of the impact of the Oslo Accords. No government would tolerate such behavior.
The Foreign Ministry has regrettably not performed as well as one would have hoped in recent years. Today, in the midst of enormously challenging times, when the war of ideas has assumed a crucial role, the Foreign Ministry cannot tolerate diplomats who breach their public service obligations and feel they are entitled to indulge in personal diplomacy and political agendas. This must apply to all governments irrespective of political orientation.
This column was first published as a blog entry in the Jerusalem Post
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For example, this year he praised the Hillel Rabbi at Dartmouth whoendorsed an appeal in which Jewish students in conjunction with the local Muslim Student Association, Al Nur raised funds for victims of the Gaza conflict. What made this a somewhat bizarre initiative for a Jewish organization was that none of the proceeds were to be apportioned to Jewish victims of Hamas terrorism. Tamir is alleged to have praised the initiative as the kind of activity that American Jews and people around the world should be taking.
It was therefore not entirely surprising to learn that Tamir is opposed to the policies of the Netanyahu government. However as a civil servant he is pledged to serve the government of the day.