update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli gov’t approves Ofir Akunis as consul general in New York

The position had remained vacant since Asaf Zamir resigned, ostensibly over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's now-shelved judicial reform agenda.

Israeli Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis speaks to the press in Tel Aviv, Jan. 17, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Israeli Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis speaks to the press in Tel Aviv, Jan. 17, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved the appointment of outgoing Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis as the country’s consul general in New York, the Prime Minister’s Office announced.

The position in New York had remained vacant since Asaf Zamir resigned in March 2023, ostensibly in protest over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s now-shelved judicial reform agenda.

Five months later, Zamir announced that he would run with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in the municipal elections, which took place in February.

Also on Sunday, the Cabinet approved Likud Party lawmaker Gila Gamliel as Akunis successor in the Innovation, Science and Technology Ministry. Gamliel’s Intelligence Ministry was recently closed as part of a drive to offset a budget shortfall amid the war against Hamas in Gaza.

“As part of our effort to fight the advocacy war in the U.S., we are happy to bring to the government’s approval the appointment of Minister Ofir Akunis as the consul general of Israel in New York,” Netanyahu stated.

“This is a very important junction: There is a huge advocacy work—a great war—both in New York and throughout the U.S., which is, of course, the most important arena. I know and have complete trust that you will do this work well,” the premier added, addressing Akunis.

Akunis, 50, joined Netanyahu’s Likud Party aged 18 in 1992 and in 1996 started working in the information department at its Tel Aviv offices.

In 2004, he was appointed media adviser in the office of then-Finance Minister Netanyahu. He continued to work with Netanyahu until 2008, when he was appointed Likud’s vice president of communications.

In 2009, Akunis initiated the establishment of the Likud’s response team, which he headed until 2013. He has considerable experience explaining the government’s position to media in Israel and abroad.

On Sunday, Akunis stressed that he stands proud “as a Jew, as a Zionist, as an Israeli—this is the right order.

“This time is particularly challenging, perhaps even on a historical scale. Since the arrival of the large waves of Jewish immigrants to the U.S., we have not seen waves of antisemitism like the ones we have witnessed in recent times, on the city streets and in academic institutions,” he noted.

He added, “The Jewish community rightfully yearns for support from the State of Israel. We will stand firmly beside them, strong and united. Unity is the key to success in Israel and the Diaspora.”

In September, it was rumored that Akunis would be appointed as the Jewish state’s U.N. ambassador. He would have replaced Gilad Erdan, who will complete his four-year term as Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations in the fall and is not interested in extending it.

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