Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has officially appointed career diplomat Yuval Rotem as director general of the Foreign Ministry, months after he was named the temporary replacement for outgoing director general Dore Gold following his sudden resignation.
Netanyahu made the announcement on Thursday at a farewell ceremony for Gold and the ministry’s outgoing chief of staff Shimon Shapira.
In his remarks, the prime minister said the ministry, long seen as sidelined on key issues of Israeli diplomacy and statecraft, played a critical role in carrying out the government’s foreign policy.
“I am thankful for the trust put in me personally,” Rotem said in a statement.
Rotem, 57, is a 30-year career diplomat who previously served as Israel’s ambassador to Australia, consul general in Los Angeles, and chief of staff at the ministry.
He has served as the ministry’s acting director-general since Gold’s surprise resignation three months ago.
Gold in October unexpectedly declared he was leaving after only 16 months on the job.
Hebrew media reports cited senior Israeli officials saying Gold, a native of Connecticut and longtime confidant of Netanyahu, quit mainly because he was frustrated over having been sidelined on the most critical foreign policy issues.
Gold denied those reports, saying at the time and repeatedly since that his reasons for leaving were entirely personal, and that he wholeheartedly supports the foreign policy of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rotem joined the diplomatic corps in 1985 and was first appointed to ambassador’s rank in 2003 by Netanyahu, who was foreign minister at the time. The appointment made him one of the youngest-ever Israeli ambassadors.
He served as Israel’s envoy to Australia and New Zealand between 2007 and 2013. During his time in Australia, Rotem had to deal with the fallout from the 2010 assassination in a Dubai hotel room of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing, in a hit attributed to Mossad agents who allegedly used fake foreign passports, including those of Australian citizens.
In another incident that tested diplomatic ties, in 2013 details emerged of the suicide while in custody of Australian-Israeli citizen Ben Zygier three years earlier as he was being held in Israel on serious espionage charges.
Zygier, allegedly a Mossad agent who was said to have inadvertently leaked names of other agents in the Middle East resulting in their arrest, imprisonment, or deaths, was being held under a strict media blackout and became known as “Prisoner X.”
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