Report: Hanegbi proposed demoting ties with states recognizing Palestine, was rebuffed

FM said to have rejected suggestion, accused national security adviser of attempting to impose policy that would lead to closure of Israeli overseas missions

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Incoming coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (L) and Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz (R) at a Knesset ceremony swearing in the new government on May 14, 2015 (Knesset Spokesperson)
File: Then-incoming coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (L) and then-transportation and intelligence minister Israel Katz (R) at a Knesset ceremony swearing in the new government on May 14, 2015 (Knesset Spokesperson)

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi suggested officially downgrading diplomatic relations with countries that have recently recognized a Palestinian state, sparking a dispute with Foreign Minister Israel Katz during a security cabinet meeting Sunday night, according to a Hebrew media report.

Presenting a paper on how to respond to the recent moves, Hanegbi suggested officially downgrading diplomatic relations with those that have taken the measure, including Spain, Ireland, Norway, and Slovenia, the Ynet news site reported.

Israel recalled its envoys in May after the countries announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, but Hanegbi called for the move to be made permanent, and to close or limit the diplomatic representation that the four countries have in the Jewish state, leaving only consular services.

As part of the move, Israel would also limit its diplomatic presence in those countries.

Katz, who according to Ynet was not consulted on the matter, reacted furiously, telling Hanegbi: “Don’t drop a decision that imposes policy on me. I will decide whether or not to close a consulate or embassy.”

Other ministers reportedly supported Katz and said the proposal was too far-reaching.

People hang a Palestinian flag in front of the parliament building after Slovenia’s national assembly voted to recognize a Palestinian state, in Ljubljana, on June 4, 2024. (AFP)

Slovenia, Spain, Ireland, and Norway officially recognized a Palestinian state in the past month, bringing to 145 the number of UN member states that have done so, according to Palestinian authorities.

Israel has reacted with anger to the moves, calling them a “reward” to Hamas for its October 7 atrocities, in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people and took 251 hostages.

Katz has responded with a series of diplomatic steps against the countries, while also launching an online campaign trolling their leaders, particularly in Spain.

In response to the decisions by Spain, Norway, and Ireland, Katz posted a series of mocking videos, including one interspersing a couple flamenco dancing with footage of Hamas’s October 7 massacre and the tagline: “Hamas thanks you for your service.”

Another post boldly declared “The days of the Inquisition are over,” referring to the 15th Century Spanish persecution of Jews.

A number of Israeli diplomats have spoken out anonymously against Katz over what they called his undiplomatic habit of trolling countries on social media over decisions he disagrees with.

Last week, Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which is far ahead in polls before a July 4 election, pledged to recognize a Palestinian state as part of a peace process.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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