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Israeli Diplomacy: The Effects of Cultural Trauma

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SummaryIsraeli politicians are diplomatic agents provocateurs. Presidents, prime ministers and foreign office executives craft diplomatic scenes that betray diplomatic protocol. This article exposes the deep cultural codes that explain the unique behaviour of Israeli diplomacy. It documents different occasions of Israeli exceptional diplomacy and suggests that they reflect the cultural traumas that underlie Israeli culture. The analyses apply a new theoretical framework that dwells on the cultural codes of ‘Israeliness’ while suggesting that the unique style of Israeli diplomacy reflects four such codes: existential anxiety; upright defiance; a dugri (frank) speech culture and a fear of seeming to be a sucker (‘fraier’). By interpreting prominent cases with a cultural lens, the authors provide new insights into Israeli unilateralism, its seeming ‘paranoid’ character, and the reason for Israeli ignorance of international diplomatic codes. Essentially, they suggest that: (a) there is a cultural mismatch between diplomatic protocol and the Israeli national habitus; (b) the more that Israel’s strategic interests are threatened, the more locked it becomes to its post-traumatic habitus and the further its politicians move away from protocol. Israel’s persistent cultural trauma is thus likely to maintain the deviation of Israeli diplomacy from diplomatic protocol.


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