Public diplomacy minister quits post amid war, citing ‘waste of public funds’

Controversial Likud figure Galit Distel Atbaryan says her ministry has been stripped of its authority and therefore ‘cannot provide a meaningful contribution to the country’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan speaks at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on August 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan speaks at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on August 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the midst of a brutal and deadly war, Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan announced on Thursday evening that she was quitting her post, citing the current government’s sidelining of her powers.

In a lengthy social media post, Distel Atbaryan explained that following Hamas’s brutal assault on southern Israel on Saturday, the Public Diplomacy Directorate within the Prime Minister’s Office decided to appoint the Diaspora Affairs Ministry as responsible for coordinating Israel’s war-time public diplomacy alongside the Foreign Ministry.

The Diaspora Affairs Ministry accordingly had more resources, manpower and authorities than her nascent office, and therefore “I cannot find at this moment any justification for this doubling of powers.”

Distel Atbaryan said that once her office was “emptied of the authority it was originally given — I have no choice but to honestly admit that every day it would continue to operate would be a waste of public funds.”

The Likud minister had faced significant criticism since entering the post, in particular over her use of the office to heavily promote the government’s judicial overhaul as well as her history of incendiary remarks. She was also the subject of sharp censure this week over her ministry’s seeming lack of activity as Israel faced its worst attack in decades.

Distel Atbaryan said her efforts were hampered by her struggles to be allocated a budget, which she said the ministry received just 17 weeks ago, more than six months into the government’s establishment.

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Ego aside — the good of Israel comes before everything, certainly in such a horrible time of war,” she wrote. “Operating a government ministry is an expensive issue and the people of Israel need every shekel.”

“In the current constellation, this ministry cannot provide a meaningful contribution to the country and the good of the state is more important to me than anything else,” she added.

Labor MK Naama Lazimi posted on X that “there are other redundant ministries with huge budgets that should be used instead to strengthen public resilience,” adding that the inflated number of ministry positions handed out to form the current government “is no longer valid. Enough.”

Atbaryan tended to make headlines for divisive remarks and comments, including a cabinet meeting over the summer where she reportedly got into a heated fight with Intelligence Minister Galit Gamliel, saying: “Bite me, you moron, no one in Likud likes you.”

In April she suggested that there was a deep state network of senior officials in the military, police and media that were working to bring down the government, and in March she drew a wave of backlash when she gave a fiery speech proclaiming that it was “your families that were burned” in the Holocaust, slamming what she viewed as Ashkenazi elites leading a wave of criticism against her and her activities.

“They call me the propaganda minister — Goebbels here, Goebbels there,” she said, referencing Joseph Goebbels, whose official title under Adolf Hitler was Reich minister of public enlightenment and propaganda. “Nazi [comparisons] like confetti. A dozen Hitlers a dime. I don’t even find it shocking anymore.”

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