The Foreign Ministry’s outgoing director-general, Dore Gold, on Friday denied reports claiming he quit over a falling-out with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The decision to leave the senior post after only 16 months was taken out of consideration for his family, Gold told The Times of Israel, adding, however, that he would soon return to diplomatic activity.
On Thursday, Gold — a long-time confidante of Netanyahu — surprisingly announced that he was quitting the post “for personal reasons.” While Gold declared he remains available for any future mission Netanyahu might assign him to, reports quickly emerged citing senior diplomatic officials saying Gold was leaving because he had lost faith in his boss and was frustrated to have been left out of many of Israel’s most important foreign policy matters.
But Gold on Friday resolutely rejected these reports. “It was a completely personal choice. But that led to a lot of people to considering all kinds of things that are all wrong,” he said. “The reason I decided to quit the post has to do with what goes on in my brain. And senior officials, with all due respect, have no idea what I am thinking in my head.”
The odd timing of his announcement — a day after Yom Kippur and hours before the United Nations’ education agency UNESCO passed a resolution ignoring the Jewish people’s link to the Temple Mount — was purely incidental, Gold indicated. He had started discussing leaving his post with Netanyahu back in June and was just waiting for a proper replacement to be found.
Hours after Gold announced his departure, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying veteran diplomat Yuval Rotem had been appointed as the Foreign Ministry’s acting director-general.
Several officials had claimed Gold was particularly dismayed over being excluded from some of the foreign policy apparatus’s main issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, bilateral relations with the United States and reconciliation with Turkey. A seasoned diplomat, Gold was reportedly frustrated at having been relegated to running the day-to-day business of the Foreign Ministry and to advancing Israel’s rapprochement with several African nations.
But Gold firmly rebuffed the notion that he was left out of certain key areas in foreign policy. “I was invited to all the security cabinet meetings. So there I was in the most sensitive meetings the prime minister convenes, and I was invited by him personally. It doesn’t make any sense to say I was left out.”
The détente with Ankara had been led by Joseph Ciechanover since before Gold arrived at the Foreign Ministry in June 2015, Gold pointed out. And when Gold, as director-general, visited Istanbul in the wake of a March 19 terror attack that killed three Israelis, he met with his Turkish counterpart, who was heading the reconciliation negotiations for Turkey, he said. “I was not left out of Turkey, on the contrary.”
Similarly, the prime minister tasked his trusted personal envoy Yitzhak Molcho with the peace process many years ago, and discussions with the US administration over military aid have traditionally been handled by the Defense Ministry and the National Security Council, Gold said.
“Some people think Africa is a bad consolation prize,” he added. “That is completely wrong. I think Africa is one of the most exciting frontiers to which Israel is returning.”
But if he was professionally fulfilled — indeed, on Thursday he called the position of Foreign Ministry director-general the “highpoint” of his personal and professional life — why did he quit after just a little more than year?
“I have a family to take care of,” replied Gold, who has two grandchildren who are less than a year old. “My family needs me right now. They need me to devote time to them and I will give it to them. Life has ebbs and flows, periods in which you give more attention to one thing and less attention to another thing. But in the not too distant future I will be on the front lines again, defending Israel and creating new international contacts.”
Gold will return to be the full-time president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a think tank he has headed since 2000.
“I will be back on the front lines of diplomatic activity in the very near future,” he said. “And if the prime minister needs me, I am available 24/7.”
Declining to provide more detail about the kind of activity he plans to undertake, Gold merely stated that think tanks today are “important launching pads for diplomatic interaction” and that his work will soon “have implications for Israeli diplomacy.”
He added: “I have had very important contact, over the last few years, with leaders in various countries on several continents, who all told me they would like me to maintain a connection with them.”
In June 2015, days before he took up the Foreign Ministry post, Gold shared a stage with former Saudi general Anwar Eshki, in a rare public meeting that was seen by many as the first harbinger of a Saudi-Israeli détente.