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Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 05:35 | SYDNEY
Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 05:35 | SYDNEY

Israel: Elbows off the table please!

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11 March 2010 15:53

As a UN observer working in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon in the mid 1990s I was often told by Israelis that their sometimes abrupt attitude towards people working for the UN was because they were similar to spiky fruit — rough on the outside but sweet on the inside.

At the time I thought many of the people I dealt with would have been well served by perusing a copy of Emily Post's book on etiquette, or perhaps given their British mandatory heritage Debrett's Etiquette and Modern Manners may have been more appropriate.

I recount this because I thought that the treatment accorded me was a result of the fact that local Israelis felt the UN wasn't effectively contributing to security in South Lebanon. But recent events at a much higher political level would appear to reinforce the need for some etiquette teachers in Israel ASAP.

First there was the treatment of the Turkish ambassador by the Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon who seated him at a lower chair than him, dispensed with the Turkish flag at the meeting and told the accompanying cameraman in Hebrew that this treatment was a deliberate snub.

Not to be outdone, the Interior Minister Eli Yishai has had to apologise to the visiting American vice-president about the unfortunate timing of an announcement to build 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem, smack bang at the start of his visit to Israel to discuss the peace process. This following on from Monday's announcement by the Defence Ministry of the construction of 112 new units that were agreed before the announcement of the 10 month construction freeze.

Even before the Biden visit though, protocol issues caused upset as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Danny Danon felt that the Americans were insulting the Israelis because President Obama himself should have come.

But the Americans certainly weren't going to take these etiquette hits lying down, and launched an etiquette counter-attack of their own with the vice-president and his wife reportedly arriving 90 minutes late for dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

I'm sure that in years to come when protocol officers from the two sides gather to reminisce, the etiquette war stories from this visit will grow in stature and the number of protocol officers claiming to have been there will be ten times as many as were involved in the visit. And as for the progress of peace talks...

Photo by Flickr user franglo's photostream, used under a Creative Commons license.

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