Mar 6th 2011, 9:47 by D.L. | JERUSALEM A FORMER Israeli ambassador to South Africa has pointedly resigned from the foreign service, citing the collapse of apartheid South Africa as an important lesson for modern-day Israel. "For 46 years the apartheid government strove by force of arms to achieve regional hegemony," wrote Ilan Baruch wrote to his colleagues in the Israeli foreign ministry in a parting letter. "Apartheid was supported by almost everyone in the white community, not necessarily as a racist theory but as a policy of self-defence. There was denial of the moral price." Mr Baruch stressed that "those who accuse Israel of South Africa-style apartheid are plain wrong. That is a vengeful and vicious calumny against Zionism However, I do believe that the South African experience needs to be studied." He explained in his letter that he found himself no longer able to represent Israel because the government of Binyamin Netanyahu had no interest in a peace process based on land for peace and designed to end the conflict with the Palestinians. Government spokesmen, he wrote, had repeatedly rejected the international demand that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories. "They spurn the Annapolis process, they ignore the Road Map [two American peace initiatives from the Bush years which Israel accepted at the time]. The upshot is a malignant diplomatic dynamic which threatens Israels international standing and undermines the legitimacy not only of its occupation but of its very membership in the family of nations." He was, therefore, taking early retirement, Mr Baruch announced. He is the first and thus far the only member of the foreign service to quit since Mr Netanyahu became prime minister two years ago and installed Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the hard-right Yisrael Beitenu party, as foreign minister. He says he received dozens of e-mails and text messages from colleagues thanking him for expressing what many in the ministry think. No-one wrote condemning his action. Most of his colleagues wrote nothing at all. Perhaps, he surmises, people were not anxious to put their thoughts in traceable writing. The foreign ministry itself issued a statement saying that Mr Baruch had applied last year to be ambassador to Egypt, had failed to get the appointmentand that was why he was leaving. Mr Baruch dismisses that as petty and spiteful. He admits, though, that if he were younger or poorer he probably would not have left, "but rather have sought a low-profile posting where one can keep ones head down and wait. A sort of unarticulated, internal resignation; thats what many people do." In his letter, Mr Baruch cautioned that "the paternalistic depiction of Israel as a front-line fortress in a global inter-cultural and inter-religious conflict is dangerous. The depiction of the opposition within the international community to Israels occupation policy as anti-Semitism is simplistic, provincial and superficial." Mr Baruch took a stinging swipe at the foreign ministrys efforts to change Israels branding as a way of improving its international standing. "The concept that the answer to the various threats to our national security lies in expanding our public advocacy and in promoting Israels image as a leader in world technologythat concept is an illusion." Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister in the previous government and now leader of the opposition, supported Mr Baruchs critique. "Public relations without policy is no solution," she said. "Perhaps [Mr Netanyahu] really believes that speaking in fluent English on foreign television stations creates change. But it doesnt."