Last week, MK Einat Wilf (Independence), the newly appointed chairwoman of the
Knesset subcommittee on Diaspora Affairs, took the historic first steps of
proposing a much-needed initiative to transform the Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee into a cogent, diplomatic powerhouse – on a par with the IDF –
to help Israel finally gain traction in the long-neglected intellectual war
waged against its existence.
During a December 20 Knesset House Committee
meeting, Wilf – who is also the chairwoman of the Independence faction and
serves on the Foreign Affairs and Defense, Education, and Finance committees –
rightly argued that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee largely
ignores diplomatic issues (i.e. media relations), instead focusing almost
exclusively on classic security matters.
She noted that the vast majority
of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is dedicated to military concerns –
with only one of its 13 subcommittees committed to diplomacy.
Wilf recognizes – and made clear – that the battlefield has shifted to the
international-media arena, where, as Marshall McLuhan sagely pointed out in his
classic 1964 tome Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, “the medium is the
IN McLUHAN’S seminal book, he states: “As society’s values,
norms and ways of doing things change because of the technology, it is then we
realize the social implications of the medium. These range from cultural or
religious issues and historical precedents...”
McLuhan postulates that a
medium, which he defines as “an extension of ourselves,” and the message it
conveys have become symbiotic, thus elevating the medium itself to becoming a
key variable in how information is received and therefore,
That said, if the medium – and mastery of it – is indeed the
message, it would appear that Israel has still yet to receive it, or has chosen
to ignore it almost entirely. Until now.
PASSAGE OF Wilf’s proposal would
be the game-changer this country needed decades ago by giving diplomacy and
media relations equanimity with classic security concerns for the first time in
During her two-year tenure in the Knesset, Wilf has
repeatedly emphasized and advocated for heightened diplomatic and media
Indeed, early in her tenure (initially in Labor) in a May 30,
2010 New York Times
article “Deadly Israeli Raid Draws Condemnation,” Wilf
stated that she warned Defense Minister Ehud Barak and others well in advance
that the Turkish Mava Marmara flotilla disaster was a public relations crisis,
and should not be dealt with militarily.
“This had nothing to do with
security. The armaments for Hamas were not coming from this flotilla,”
Wilf noted in the piece.
In a subsequent BBC World Service interview
shortly thereafter, Wilf clearly framed the disparate confluence of struggles
“In Israel we are engaged today in two arenas: There is the
security arena... then there is a new arena, which is no less important and
strategic for Israel, and that is the ongoing campaign to delegitimize [the
country],” she said. “The question is, can we defend Israel by other means – by
means that are not military? This is the kind of battle of ideas and narrative
that we should fight and win...
“We have a great story to tell, and we
must defend our cause when Israel is being attacked on its narrative, on its
story – on its image.”
Wilf understands that this can only be accomplished by
exponentially improving Israel’s profoundly, and unjustly, maligned perception
within the media.
TO DO this Wilf suggested that the Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee be split, pointing out that most Western countries have
separate panels for foreign affairs and defense matters, and that a separate
committee for Foreign Affairs would allow for proper supervision of the Foreign
“Now, when the State of Israel is dealing with challenges on
the international stage, there is a need to put foreign affairs questions on
equal standing with classic security questions,” Wilf said.
significance of her proposal cannot be overstated, and is long overdue if Israel
is to defend its narrative on the same international stage where it has been
unfairly pelted with rotten eggs and tomatoes in seeming
Simply stated: The Foreign Ministry must now handle media
relations with as much skill and precision as the IDF has demonstrated on the
battlefield, or it’s going to continue to lose the intellectual war.
IT is up to Wilf’s colleagues in the Foreign Ministry to recognize the gravity
and necessity of this initiative and move forward expeditiously and
It is time to stop naively thinking that self-evident truths
will carry the day and set the record straight for a country that is routinely
slandered in any given news cycle.
Nothing in this world is self-evident
anymore – especially when it concerns Israel – until it is expertly packaged for
the media. The sooner the Foreigner Ministry learns to accept this fact,
and finally acts on it, the sooner we will be on our way to changing Israel’s
narrative for the better.
Wilf has discussed the proposal with all the
key players, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, and
the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Shaul
So far the initiative has garnered some support, but Netanyahu and
Barak have stated that they are concerned that testifying in two committees
would be time consuming.
I WOULD like to respectfully beseech Netanyahu
and Barak to note that in the scheme of time-consuming Knesset affairs, the
matter of Israel’s intellectual war should be no less pressing and primary than
military strategy - and long has been.
This matter needed to be dealt with
long ago, and finally has reached the platform it desperately
The sooner the Foreign Ministry acts on this fact the sooner we
will be on our way to changing Israel’s narrative for good.
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