Foreign Ministry staff urge minister to block PM’s pick for Egypt envoy – report

Staffers ask Israel Katz to back their choice of veteran diplomat Amira Oron over PM’s possible appointment of controversial ex-Likud lawmaker Ayoub Kara

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and then-transportation minister Israel Katz attend the inauguration ceremony for a new train station in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi, September 17, 2018. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) listens to acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on May 19, 2019. (Ariel Schalit / various sources / AFP)

Foreign Ministry staff have asked their minister to counter Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to appoint a former Likud lawmaker, who has a history of diplomatic fumbles, as ambassador to Egypt instead of the ministry’s pick of a veteran diplomat.

Staff sent a letter to Foreign Minister Israel Katz urging him to push on behalf of Amira Oron, a professional diplomat who last fall was tapped to be the first woman appointed to be the ambassador in Cairo, Haaretz reported Thursday.

On Tuesday Channel 13 news reported that Netanyahu was considering appointing Communications Minister Ayoub Kara for the post. Kara, 64, a lawyer and Druze politician from the Galilee town of Daliat el-Carmel, has been a staunch supporter of the premier, but failed to win a high enough spot on the party’s slate in the April 9 elections to enter the current Knesset.

If Netanyahu wanted to replace Oron with Kara he would have to convince Katz, who was recently made foreign minister, to cancel the previous selection.

Amira Oron. (Channel 10 screenshot)

According to the Haaretz report, ministry staff are wary of speaking up publicly about Kara, as they fear there may be later repercussions, but many see his candidacy as a “slap in the face” to staffers.

Oron, who was expected to take up the post in Cairo this summer, previously served in the Egyptian capital and headed the Foreign Ministry’s Egypt division, while Kara has had several undiplomatic outbursts.

On Wednesday a group of more than a dozen former ambassadors called on the government to quickly approve Oron’s appointment.

“A worthy professional appointment to the sensitive position in Egypt is far more important than a political arrangement,” they wrote. “The representation of the State of Israel is always a unique, delicate and complex task, especially in such an important country as Egypt, whose relations are a cornerstone for Israel in the Middle East. And the diplomat who has already been appointed will represent the government and the state in the most professional manner.”

The ministry’s recommendation for Oron is currently in the hands of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who must decide if political appointments can be made when the country is again in the run up to elections. Netanyahu failed to form a coalition following an April vote and then last week the Knesset dissolved, prompting new elections on September 17.

At the end of April, Katz was made foreign minister after serving for three months as the acting minister. Katz, who was third on the Likud party’s slate ahead of April’s elections, is already the minister of intelligence and transportation.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara at a press conference in the northern city of Safed, July 10, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Over the years, Kara has been active in interfaith activities and in improving Israeli relations with many countries, including Turkey and Austria, as well as with Druze communities in Lebanon and Syria.

However, he has also been involved in a series of sometimes bizarre diplomatic snafus.

Last year he was detained at the Dubai airport and missed his flight after apparently failing to heed instructions from airport officials.

In 2017, Morocco issued a rare official complaint to Israel after Kara posed for a picture with the prime minister of the breakaway Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco.

In November 2016, Kara posted to his Facebook page details of a security-related incident involving the Jewish state, all elements of which are still under a gag order. The post was quickly taken down, but not before journalists and others saw the information.

A month earlier, Kara drew condemnation from the Foreign Ministry when, during a visit to Italy, he suggested that powerful earthquakes in that country were divine retribution for anti-Israel actions in the United Nations.

A staunch Netanyahu loyalist, he nonetheless lost the prime minister’s backing before the Likud Party primaries, for reasons that remain unclear.

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