In the wake of the sudden resignation of Dore Gold as Foreign Ministry Director-General for “personal reasons,” came the inevitable speculation that the cause was a falling out with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. But on Thursday, soon after the announcement, Gold denied any conflict with Netanyahu.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Gold elaborated somewhat on the “personal reasons,” saying that he wanted to spend more time with family, and that the decision had nothing to do with the prime minister, nor with other appointees with whom he has had to share the foreign affairs limelight, such as special envoy Yitzhak Molcho or deputy minister for public diplomacy Michael Oren.
“I have worked with Molcho for many years and accept that he is a very skilled diplomat,” Gold said, adding that “I have always enjoyed my time with him.”
Oren, it turns out is an old friend from student days at Columbia University in the 1970’s, when they would review Arabic flashcards together in a fraternity. “I never felt that he was taking my thunder,” Gold said.
Gold, 62, will return to his post as president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank, which will allow him more time for his two children and two grandchildren than heading the Israeli foreign ministry does.
“I have personal obligations, but I am not planning to retire to a rocking chair in Kansas,” he said.
Netanyahu thanked Gold for his dedicated service and named veteran diplomat Yuval Rotem to succeed him at the ministry. Rotem, a former ambassador to Australia, will step up from his current job as deputy director-general for public diplomacy. He served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff in the ministry when Netanyahu – who was then prime minister – held the foreign minister’s portfolio for 10 months in 1998.
Gold acknowledged that the foreign ministry has labored under a burden of unappreciation and underfunding, and lacks the glamor of the defense and security establishment.
“There is no replacement for the foreign ministry, and for embassies around the world, and the knowledge that is based in this building,” Gold said. “What we do need are resources. The ministry tends to be underfunded.”
“Officials in the Finance Ministry often look at foreign ministry workers as people who go to cocktail parties and leak information,” he said. “The reputation of the ministry within the system has been weakened. I tried to associate the foreign ministry with significant activities that people can appreciate.” The successful Africa trip and the expert handling of the massive logistics behind the funeral for Shimon Peres were given as examples.
Gold said that rather than “folding up the flag” in Israeli representations abroad to save money, “the country needs to open new embassies in Africa.”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Foreign Ministry Workers Union Hanan Goder gave Arutz Sheva a less sanguine point of view on Gold’s resignation.
“He hasn’t even left yet and I already miss him. He was the person most identified with Netanyahu. If he couldn’t solve the problems in the Foreign Ministry, then I fear that the person who replaces him won’t be able to do it either,” Goder said.
Goder lamented Gold’s tenure as a disappointing one, and laid the blame with Netanyahu.
“He got a car made of candy from the Prime Minister, as we say in Israel. He got in. The wipers worked. The headlights were on. Only Netanyahu never gave him the driver’s key. He (Netanyahu) took on [this issue of] the US. He took on [the issue of] Russia. He took on [the issue of] Iran. He took on [the issue of] BDS. And he left (Dore Gold) [the issues of] Africa and the committee issues.”
When asked if things might look different after eight acting directors, he answered in the negative: “I don’t. The Prime Minister is not interested in fixing the Foreign Ministry. He wants to scatter [its functions] into four, seven, or twelve different parts. No one can explain. It was like a bomb was thrown at us; our Director-General resigns, another twenty minutes and he’ll be gone.”
What about Yuval Rotem?
“Yuval is a professional. He’s quiet, but he works with grace and charisma. But until Netanyahu decides to bring the office back to life, nothing is going to change,” said Goder.