The cabinet, and particularly the inner cabinet, consisting of the prime minister, minister of foreign affairs, minister of defense, and other selected ministers, are responsible for formulating Israel's major foreign policy decisions. Within the inner cabinet, the prime minister customarily plays the major role in foreign policy decision making, with policies implemented by the minister of foreign affairs. Other officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs include, in order of their rank, the director general, assistant directors general, legal and political advisers, heads of departments, and heads of missions or ambassadors. While the director general may initiate and decide an issue, commit the ministry by making public statements, and respond directly to queries from ambassadors, assistant directors general supervise the implementation of policy. Legal and political advisers have consultative, not operational, roles. Heads of departments serve as aides to assistant directors general, administer the ministry's departments, and maintain routine contact with envoys. The influence of ambassadors depends on their status within the diplomatic service and the importance to the ministry's policy makers of the nation to which they are accredited.
In the Knesset, the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, with twenty-six members, although prestigious, is not as independent as the foreign affairs committees of the United States Congress. Its role, according to Samuel Sager, an Israeli Knesset official, is not to initiate new policies, but to "legitimize Government policy choices on controversial issues." Members of the committee frequently complain that they do not receive detailed information during briefings by government officials; government spokesmen reply that committee members tend to leak briefing reports to the media.
Israeli foreign policy is chiefly influenced by Israel's strategic situation, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the rejection of Israel by most of the Arab states. The goals of Israeli policy are therefore to overcome diplomatic isolation and to achieve recognition and friendly relations with as many nations as possible, both in the Middle East and beyond. Like many other states, throughout its history Israel has simultaneously practiced open and secret diplomacy to further its main national goals. For example, it has engaged in military procurement, the export of arms and military assistance, intelligence cooperation with its allies, commercial trade, the importation of strategic raw materials, and prisoner-of-war exchanges and other arrangements for hostage releases. It has also sought to foster increased Jewish immigration to Israel and to protect vulnerable Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
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