Frank Luntz: PM must show positive intent

Strategist urges Netanyahu to copy visual style at UN last year in DC.

July 6, 2010 07:15
3 minute read.
Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly last y

Netanyahu UN speech 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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American political strategist Frank Luntz is urging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to replicate during his US visit this week the kind of “innovative, creative, visual approach” he adopted at the UN General Assembly last year, to convey to Americans the challenges Israel faces in its peacemaking efforts.

Luntz, who discussed communications strategies and tactics with a series of leading Israeli politicians during a visit here organized by the Israel Project last week, praised Netanyahu’s UN address last September – during which the prime minister held up a copy of the minutes of the Wannsee Conference, at which the Nazis planned the Final Solution, and the blueprints of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps – as “one of the great leadership speeches ever made by an Israeli.”

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Netanyahu was speaking a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had addressed the General Assembly, and his approach “challenged the world community” in its attitude to the Holocaust- denying Iranian leader, said Luntz.

It was vital, Luntz went on, that Netanyahu made plain Israel’s “positive intent” as regarded peacemaking, and its “commitment to progress… The more empathetic the communication,” he said, “the more effective the communication.”

“I really hope that the Israeli leadership realizes that the American political situation is not the same today as it was two years or four years or six years ago,” said Luntz. “And just as leaders have changed, the communication should change. What worked for Israel 10 years ago would not work today.”

Specifically, he noted that in his research with focus groups, nothing had produced as much support for Israel’s position as when President Shimon Peres read from the text of the Hamas charter at the Davos World Economic Forum in January 2009, at a panel debate which saw Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan storm angrily off the stage.

Peres quoted lines from the Hamas charter branding peace efforts “a waste of time” and relating to the imperative for Muslims to “kill the Jews” in order to hasten the day of judgment.

“Nothing that we have ever tested has done better than Shimon Peres quoting from the Hamas charter,” said Luntz, a prominent political consultant who has worked in the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere. “Here is the epitome of a great elder statesman reading from the epitome of hate and loathing. The two of them together is communication perfection.”

Added Luntz, “If Israeli leaders would carry a copy of the Hamas charter with them, I’d say to you that is game set and match... If every American were to learn what was in the Hamas charter, Israel would never have to worry about public support ever again. That’s how important it is.”

Luntz, who has been conducting research for the Israel Project on the American public’s response to Israeli leaders’ speeches and to the language in official Israeli government statements, cited a recent Wall Street Journal poll showing support for Israel is “as high today as it ever has been – with 61 percent identified with Israel, and only 10% identified with the Palestinians.”

But, he went on, “only 34% support what Israel did with the flotilla, which is a record low for an Israeli policy. So at some point, if [Americans] don’t support the individual actions, it will have an impact on overall support.”

The full interview with Frank Luntz will appear in The Jerusalem Post later this week.

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