Alon Pinkas, Israel's Consul General NYC:
The Portrait Of A Diplomat

by Gad Nahshon

Alon Pinkas, 40, is Israel's new Consul General in New York City. He is one of Israel's most successful young diplomats. He is an open-minded professional and sophisticated diplomat. He already received excellent remarks from Israel's friends in the 'Big Apple.' There are many challenges in this city: The media, the networks and the plethora of Jewish organizations, synagogues, and federations. He is also in charge of the tri-state area. And he carries the burden with love and dedication. He has to guard the well-being and the prestige of Israel and life is not easy for him. He is doing very well in the media, including CNN. "By using the network we can reach millions but I love the personal touch or encounters. I am always looking for feedback," Pinkas told me in his office at Second Avenue.

I decided to meet Pinkas because we celebrated Israel's Independence Day and because New York Jews celebrate one more 'Salute for Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue.

After 53 years of celebrations, some argue that Israel has not solved even one of its many problems with its Arab neighbors and with the Palestinians. Israel is still in a permanent state of war. It is the kind of situation which produces a national depressive mood: "I am an optimist. We must always recall that Israel is an unusual success story. It is a unique success: A. We achieve Jewish independence; B. We achieve a democratic regime, we absorbed massive aliyah. Our founding fathers who built our strong democracy made aliyah from countries which did not have any democracy; C. We built a Hebrew military power, the Israeli Army; D. We built a strong growing economy. One must notice the fact that we absorbed millions of Russian olim in ten years. It is an unprecedented revolutionary demographic achievement," Pinkas pointed out.

He also remarked that there is a price that Israel has to pay for these achievements. Pinkas outlined some of the problems: "We did not solve yet the issues of state and religion. We still need more social justice and we did not solve the issue of the Israeli-Arab minority." As to the quest of peace, the prayer for peace in the Middle East, Pinkas illuminated: "We do not have yet a total peace agreement with the Arab world. The Arabs relate to Israel only as a strategic fact but they refuse to recognize its existence as a concept. There is a discrepancy here. Its roots have to do with the fact that Israel is a powerful country with a strong muscle of deterrence. The Arabs must globalize themselves and they cannot go forever with their approach to us. I do believe in a change therefore I am an optimist. The irony stems from the fact that our various achievements and our military posture, the growth of our modern western civilization are deterring the Arabs contradicting their civilization. On the other hand, I am against those in Israel who argue that we should not develop a dialogue with the Arabs because we must wait for the victory of a democratization process in the Arab world."

Alon Pinkas also remarked that there is a taboo: Israel will never agree to the Palestinian Law of Return. This issue of refugees will be solved by an international solution. Alon Pinkas believes that any peace process must omit any attempt even symbolically to return Palestinian refugees. It is an 'Iron Law.' Ambassador Alon Pinkas has devoted his career to serving the State of Israel in the field of foreign relations. Prior to taking up his current post as Consul General of Israel in New York, Ambassador Pinkas served as Chief of Staff to both Minister of Foreign Affairs Shlomo Ben-Ami and former Minister of Foreign Affairs David Levy, where he played an integral role in the Middle East peace process, attending negotiating sessions at all levels around the world. Ambassador Pinkas worked closely with Minister of Foreign Affairs and later Prime Minister Ehud Barak as his foreign policy advisor, on major diplomatic and economic issues and was instrumental in Israel's acceptance to the UN's Western European and Others Group (WEOG). He also served as special advisor on arms control to the director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He began his career in foreign relations in 1987 as an assistant military attach´┐Ż to the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC.

Ambassador Pinkas has also worked extensively in the field of journalism, writing for both Hebrew and English newspapers. Before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he wrote for the Jerusalem Post both as chief defense correspondent and chief military correspondent and analyst. He was also chief diplomatic correspondent and comentator for Maariv and a columnist for the Davar Daily on American Politics and International Relations.

Ambassador Pinkas was born on August 6, 1961 in Tel Aviv, Israel. He graduated summa cum laude from Hebrew University with a BA in political science in 1986 and cum laude from Georgetown University with an MA in American Government and Politics in 1988. Ambassador Pinkas has also done extensive research in US-Israel Relations, focusing on the Nixon era of 1968-1974.

In reference to the dynamic in the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community, Pinkas observed: "As to the status of Israel in the Jewish community I would like to point out that there is a discrepancy between the Jewish masses and their leadership or establishment. The stress inside the Jewish community is on many topics such as continuity, survival, inter-marriage. They see Israel, today, as a marginal issue. Truly Israel lost its historical status of centrality. But the Jewish leadership is still focusing on Israel. The leaders really care. On the other hand, many Jews tend to be more critical about Israel. It is for Israel a new serious problem. I feel a sense of radicalization. I think that we must do something in order to reinforce the status of Israel in the Jewish community. It is a complicated issue or challenge. It is, first of all, the problem of the younger Jewish generation.

Does a young Jewish guy, 25, from Boston, for example, really knows what's going on in Ramat-Gan? The centrality of Israel disappeared! Of course this issue of relationship is complicated because the Jewish camp and the pro-Israel camp is not monolithic. But generally speaking, the Israeli-American Jewish community bond is really disintegrating," explained Pinkas who, also thinks that Israel should not finance or intervene in the organization of 'Salute to Israel Parade': "American Jews must organize this parade. It is their spontaneous expression of support for Israel," Pinkas argued.

Pinkas is aware of the contribution of American Jewry to Israel's well-being. He knows that this Jewry is a strategic asset for Israel. We must reinforce Israel's status and prestige inside this community. It is Israel most naturally: "We must provide Israelis and Jews with a new forum of a dialogue. We must stop the erosion in the status of Israel inside the American Jewish community," said Pinkas, who is aware of the new process of de-Israelization in this country. On the other hand, the American public opinion continues to express great support for Israel: No erosion in this pro-Israeli camp in America. Americans still admire Israel's democracy, surviving in the midst of Arab or Muslim fundamentalism.

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