Examining the available scientific literature on Israel’s foreign policy, policy-making, and Israeli relations with various foreign states from the establishment of the State until now, it turns out that we are missing a comprehensive scientific study of the making of Israel’s foreign policy, a lack of information and analyses that is detrimental to a more comprehensive understanding of Israel’s foreign relations.
Hence, the main focus of this special issue of Israel Studies and each of the eight articles included in it is to continue in a more systematic manner to fill this gap. We believe that this special issue, which deals with Israel’s foreign policy-making and explanation from the early period of the State until these days, brings together and presents new studies on various aspects of Israeli foreign policy-making, will contribute to a deeper perspective of this significant sphere and will further stimulate scholarly work that will lead to further and more comprehensive studies that hitherto has been denied to students and scholars.
Following are the main issues and findings in each of the articles included in this special issue.
In “Moshe Sharett and the Origins of Israel’s Diplomacy”, the veteran diplomat and scholar, Moshe Yegar, presents an overview and evaluation of Sharett’s role in the establishment of Israel’s MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). He notes that Sharett’s appointment as director of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency in 1933 ushered in a new era in the history of Zionist diplomacy. Later, as Israel’s first foreign minister, Sharett gradually built a professionally functioning ministry and displayed a great deal of thoughtfulness to the needs and sensibilities of those who worked with him, taking into consideration the questions they raised and their own personal issues. Yegar demonstrates that Sharett was outstanding in his inclusive and all-encompassing grasp of Israel’s foreign policy and its implementation. He believed that international negotiations, public diplomacy, international cultural relations, assisting developing countries, trade relations, economics, and all the other issues that involve contact with foreign states, nations, and governments, constitute the varying aspects of one core issue—Israel’s foreign relations. There is no doubt that Sharett and his assistants created [End Page v] the basis for the structure and modes of operation of the ministry, which to a certain degree have been maintained until now.
In this connection, please note that our choice of the picture on the front cover reflects Sharett’s reputation as an active listener and thinker.
In his article “Moshe Sharett, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Jewish Diaspora”, Gabi Sheffer deals with the Israeli government’s relations with the Jewish Diaspora. It is worth while noting that indeed there are almost no publications on this issue. Sheffer notes that in close connection to Israeli foreign position and policy, Sharett was among the first Yishuv and Israeli leaders who fully realized that Israel must reconsider its relations with the Jewish Diaspora. Since Israel was perceived as the “state of the entire Jewish nation”, it was imperative to establish as many legations as possible to help diasporic Jews. Unlike the positions of many other leading Israeli politicians, Sharett argued that Israel had to recognize the Diaspora as an equal partner, to respect the Jewish Diaspora’s leaders. He instructed Israeli diplomats to obtain effective positions in formulating the policies and activities of the Jewish communities, but while doing so, not to offend the diasporic members, leaders, and organizations. Consequently, Sharett and his officials played a relatively greater role in the official and informal Israeli connections with the Jewish Diaspora. Disparagingly, however, Sheffer argues that while the MFA is hypothetically supposed to perform an essential role in developing and maintaining close relations between Israel and the Diaspora, in the final analysis in fact it had little impact on these relations.
In “Jewish Issues in Israeli Foreign Policy: Israeli-Austrian Relations in the 1950s”, Ronald Zweig also focuses on the “Jewish component” in Israeli foreign policy towards Austria. He notes that although Austria, which showed anti-Semitic positions before and during the Second World War, was one of the...