After five years, new spokesperson set to take the helm at Israeli Embassy in Washington
Elad Strohmayer is set to rotate back to Israel later this month, and will be replaced by Tal Naim, a diplomat and policy advisor to the past two Israeli foreign ministers
Elad Strohmayer has been a constant at the Israeli Embassy in Washington since 2018, through three ambassadors, three prime ministers, five Israeli elections, two American administrations, four Congresses and the historic normalization of relations between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors.
But later this month, Strohmayer, the embassy’s spokesperson, is set to wrap up his time in the U.S. and will move back to Israel and into a new role leading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Congressional Affairs department.
Strohmayer described the transition as “bittersweet.”
“I really liked it here, I liked my job, I liked what I did, I liked working with journalists a lot,” he told Jewish Insider. “But the good part is that I’m going to go home after not [living] there for five years… That’s something that’s always difficult [as] a diplomat, being away from your friends and family back home.”
Strohmayer is set to be replaced in Washington by Tal Naim, a career diplomat who has served in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 10 years. Naim has served as the policy advisor to Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and former Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and filled the roles of deputy ambassador in Costa Rica and spokesperson of the Israeli Embassy in Mexico. She will formally take over the spokesperson role on Aug. 21, arriving in Washington around a week earlier.
Strohmayer described his role over the last five years as a “roller coaster,” naming the Abraham Accords and their signing ceremony at the White House as a particular highlight. He recounted feeling like he was “part of history” seeing ties building among Emirati, Israeli and Bahraini journalists at the event, and seeing the growing connections among the three embassies following the signing of the normalization deal.
He also voiced his gratitude to the three Israeli ambassadors to the U.S., Ron Dermer, Gilad Erdan and Michael Herzog, under whom he has served, as well as his colleagues, particularly the members of his press team, over the years.
Strohmayer served as a face of the Israeli Embassy during a time of escalating criticism of Israel within the U.S. political system, and emphasized the need to keep support for Israel depoliticized and bipartisan — a task he said he will continue into his new role.
“There are voices on the fringe, that we should really make sure… stay in the fringe and [d]on’t become the mainstream,” he said. “There are people from both sides that want to drag Israel into the partisan debate here in America. America became very partisan and very polarized. I think that’s something of a challenge for us — that we should really try and prevent Israel from becoming a partisan issue and keep Israel a bipartisan issue.”
Strohmayer said that his new role will involve reaching out to and meeting with members from both parties for “honest and frank conversations,” including those who have criticisms of Israel.
He emphasized the importance of a “broader tent” for dialogue — albeit with limits. “The limit should be recognizing Israel is Jewish and democratic, and the Jewish people’s right [to] self-determination,” he said.
Naim told JI she’s excited to come to Washington, as the center of global politics and Israel’s “most important strategic ally.” Joining her are her husband and two young children.
“I think that if you want to better understand world politics, media and international relations — Washington is the place to go. After working closely with two ministers that come from different sides of the political map in Israel and taking part in shaping Israel’s foreign policy, diving into Israel-USA relations is a natural next step for me,” she said. “The relationship between Israel and the USA has been and always will be strong and important. I’m proud to serve as a bridge between our two great nations and work to help strengthen our alliance.”
Naim told JI there has been “not a dull moment” in her recent years working with Lapid and Cohen, which encompassed Lapid’s participation in the Negev Forum and visit to the U.S., as well as Cohen’s visits to Ukraine, Israel’s new embassy in Turkmenistan and various other locales.
Asked about his recommendations for his successor, Strohmayer counseled, “love what you do,” and also emphasized that “the media is not our enemy.”
“Remember that even in moments of grave disagreements with journalists, we’re all looking for the greater good,” he said. “The media has a very important role in defending and protecting our democracy and our democratic institutions.”
Outside of his core responsibilities as spokesperson, Strohmayer, who served at the embassy alongside his husband — Oren Ben-Yosef, the vice consul — has taken an active role as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. He led the embassy’s Pride Month reception the past two years and participated in events with U.S.-based LGBTQ+ advocacy groups.
“It’s very important as an openly gay man that we’re going to be visible. That’s something that I lacked growing up, to see more visible, openly gay people in high-rank positions,” Strohmayer said. “Especially now we’re in an era that we see that there are voices rising against the LGBTQ+ community, and we should keep our head[s] held up high against those voices.”
In a similar capacity, Naim said she hopes to leverage her experience working in Latin America and Spanish fluency to help the embassy better connect with Spanish-language media in the U.S.
“There’s a big Latin American community in the United States and I think that if the embassy will be able to address them about our issues — not only the big political issues, but also what’s beyond the conflict — that can be something interesting and refreshing that the embassy almost never do[es] with Latin crowds,” Naim said.