Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has mounted a robust defense of official Israel’s performance on the public diplomacy “battlefield” over the fatal flotilla raid this week.

Writing in a Jerusalem Post op-ed elsewhere in these pages, Ayalon said the Foreign Ministry and many other governmental agencies had been working furiously ahead of the interception “to prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best. In fact the level of coordination before, during and after these events was unprecedented.”

Senior Foreign Ministry officials “held countless meetings with the leadership and ambassadors around the world,” he wrote, “especially from those countries whose citizens were involved in the flotilla, reiterating the dangers and true nature of the flotilla organizers’ strategy. The international media was briefed and many press releases and information packs on the true intentions of the flotilla were distributed well in advance.

“While some have criticized Israel’s public relations readiness for the ghastly events that took place on Monday morning, far more have expressed increasing satisfaction with the vast improvement in Israel’s official crisis management,” he added.

Responding to criticism of the delay in releasing IDF footage of naval commandos being attacked aboard the Mavi Marmara, Ayalon noted: “To be able to disseminate pictures from the operation to apprehend the ships, the IDF had to ensure that no soldier’s faces could be identified and that no operational procedures were broadcast to our enemies... Our first priority is to the safety of our citizens, especially when they are on the front lines defending us in increasingly difficult situations.”

The deputy minister added that “while public relations is vitally important, it is only one of the very many tasks that we had to attend to in light of the events surrounding the flotilla. At the Foreign Ministry, we were in constant contact with our ambassadors to spread Israel’s message and keep them updated, speaking to the foreign diplomatic corps based in Israel, especially coordinating with those whose citizens were aboard the flotilla. We coordinated our message with thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, NGOs, bloggers and volunteers. We kept foreign heads of government abreast of the situation and pressed Israel’s case while working with multilateral bodies, like the United Nations.

“Israel’s public diplomacy has become the new battlefield,” said Ayalon, “and if one gauges the results, it is clear that there are many positives. There is not one credible member of the international media that still parrots the stated motives of the organizers of the flotilla... More and more correspondents, many who were previously very critical of Israeli policy, have placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the flotilla organizers. These are very real successes.”

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