I am absolutely astounded to find so many of your “luminaries” in the
universities who are teaching the [youth] that Israel was basically born in sin.
Quite a lot of the [anti-Israel] animosity in the [international] media is fed
by organizations such as the Haaretz newspaper. It is coming out from Israel
academics. This cuts ground from under the feet of those who tell the truth.
Somebody should be putting the truth into the public domain, and the government
of Israel has not done this for many years – British columnist Melanie Phillips,
IBA TV, 2011.
To recap briefly
In the first part of this analysis, the reasons for
Israel’s feeble performance in the conduct of public diplomacy and in countering
its accelerating international delegitimization were investigated. The causes
were traced to a lack of resolve to prevail among those charged with the conduct
of Israeli diplomatic strategy.
This lack of will to win
is reflected in the hopelessly inadequate resources allotted for the fight for
Israel’s image and is rooted in large measure in the worldview of dominant civil
society elites in the media, academia and legal establishment.
positions of unelected power and privilege, together with the nature of their
personal and professional interests, provide these elites with the ability and
the motivation to impose on the elected politicians – no matter what their
electoral platform – an agenda that reflects their own unequivocally “PC”
(Palestinian-compliant) perspective on the conflict.
Inevitably, this is
an agenda that militates strongly – both implicitly and explicitly - towards
endorsement of the Palestinian narrative, at the expense of the Zionist
Deprived of material resources and motivational drive, Israel’s
public diplomacy is doomed to anemic, ineffectual failure.Perplexing
For those skeptical as to the validity of this analysis, the
following astounding facts regarding Israel’s political history may prove
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From 1977, when the Likud first came to power on a platform
of “Greater Israel,” to 2005, when the Likud withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in
stark contradiction to its electoral pledges, there were 28 years. For 20 of
these years, the prime minister came from the ranks of the Likud.
the Likud won its first elections, not only was the entire Sinai Peninsula under
Israeli control, but any suggestion that Israel might evacuate the Jordan
Valley, divide Jerusalem or withdraw from the Golan was unthinkable
Yet today, over a third of a century after Menachem Begin’s
dramatic electoral victory, all the above are not only common items in the
mainstream discourse, but are publicly proclaimed as inevitable in the
not-so-distant future by many mainstream politicians and pundits.
rational criterion, this must prove that while the “right wing” keeps winning
elections, it never really gets into power. This, in turn, must mean that there
is some external source of influence imposing outcomes on the political system
that are completely different from those one would expect.Eliminating
What could this source of extraneous influence be? Some might
suggest international pressure driven by a combination of cynical interests,
petro-dollars and anti- Semitism. Other might suggest coalition pressure because
of allegedly defective Israeli electoral system. Yet others might claim that
these results reflect some intrinsic wisdom in dovish policies of appeasement
and withdrawal that make the repudiation of hawkish pledges
None of these hypotheses holds water.
It cannot be
attributed to international pressure, which clearly cannot be invoked to explain
the either the Oslo process or the disengagement, two of the most significant
political events of the past two decades. These were both Israeli initiatives,
cooked up exclusively by Israeli chefs and served up by Israeli
Indeed, the entire Oslowian enterprise was the surreptitious
initiative of influential figures in Israeli civil society, who prevailed upon a
initially reluctant polity to adopt it and engage the PLO, still officially
deemed by many a terrorist organization deep into the negotiation process. As
for the disengagement, there was no international pressure for Israel to
undertake unilateral measures.
Indeed, it was an embattled Ariel Sharon
who, under intense legal and media onslaughts, persuaded a leery Washington to
endorse the notion of unreciprocated surrender of territory.
coalition pressures account for these decisions, since there were no coalition
pressure to adopt them. Quite the opposite. Several coalition members resigned
in protest against them.
Finally, it was not some inexorable wisdom in
these policies. Indeed two bloody decades later, they have precipitated all the
dangers that their opponents warned of, and none of the benefits that their
So it must be something else that generates this
ongoing distortion of voter preference and divergence from electoral
This brings us back to last week’s diagnosis of
the source of this perversion of the democratic process: A trinity of
interactive elites within Israel civil society.
The makeup these elites
and the mechanisms of this distortion must now be elaborated upon. As mentioned,
these elites include the individuals who dominate the legal establishment, those
who dominate the mainstream media and those who purport to represent the
dominant view in the Israeli academia.
The reservation of “purport to
represent” regarding the academia is important because many among the faculty
members in Israeli universities are not adherents to a radical
Palestinian-compliant worldview. However, this does seem to be the dominant
proclivity in the faculties of social sciences and humanities (including
The members of these faculties have close ties with the mainstream
This affords them a greatly enhanced platform for airing their
political views relative to their colleagues in fields such as, say,
paleontology or particle physics.
Moreover, and perhaps more important,
they play a crucial role in molding the next generation of aspiring politicians,
journalists, political advisers and strategists, and so on.The ability
But why does this trinity have the ability impose its political
preferences on the elected polity (often in stark contradiction to electoral
pledges), and what motivates it to wield this power (often in stark
contradiction to the national interest?).
As for the ability:
• Those who
dominate the legal establishment can almost invariably impede any initiative the
elected politicians wish to implement – as they did in preventing cutting off
the electricity supplied to Gaza needed to drive the lathes that machine the
rockets fired at us.
• Those who dominate the media can almost invariably
initiate any concessionary initiative that elected politicians may be loath to
implement – as was the case with Oslo, certainly with the disengagement (and
even more so with the Schalit prisoner exchange).
• And when the
professional stamp of approval is needed for these policies, the biased
professors in the social sciences and the humanities are always ready to provide
it and endorse even the most dangerous delusions as far-sighted
prudence.Motivation to impose
As for the motivation: The conduct of
these unelected elites is driven by set of personal and professional interests
that are served far more effectively by acquiring the approval of their peer
groups abroad, rather than the approval of the Israeli public.
• For any career-driven member of the legal establishment, the
assessment of his/her actions/decisions/verdicts by say the Harvard Law Review
or by professional colleagues at Yale, Princeton or Oxford carries far more
weight than what might be said about them in the market place in Mahaneh Yehuda
or the town square in Or Akiva.
• Likewise, any ambitious scholar in the
social sciences or humanities seeking to secure funding for a research project
with relevance for the Arab-Israeli conflict – or to publish its findings in a
prestigious journal – knows he/she has a much greater chance of success if
his/her reputation reflects a history of identification with the Palestinian
narrative rather than commitment to the Zionist one.
• For an
image-conscious media personality, the odds of being invited as a keynote
speaker to a high-profile event abroad are clearly far higher if he/she is known
to express empathy for Palestinian suffering rather than concern for Israel
It is this combination of elite power and preference that draws
the contours of the public discourse. It facilitates the circumvention and the
manipulation of public opinion, and hence the capacity to set the overall
direction of national policy – no matter who gets elected.Precluding
It also reveals why professionals, charged with the conduct of Israel’s
public diplomacy – and who are drawn from, and interface with, these elites –
cannot adopt a winning strategy.
In his seminal opus, The Art of War, the
ancient Chinese strategist Sun Zu stipulates “...the ability to defeat the enemy
means taking the offensive.”
The battle on the public diplomacy front is
no different – to win one must go on the offensive.
But in public
diplomacy, launching a strategic offensive entails portraying Israel’s
adversaries as they truly are. If not, the public will have no way of
understanding Israel’s security constrains and imperatives, and why certain
measures which otherwise might seem unwarranted and excessive are crucial for
the protection of its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike. However, if one
presents the Palestinian society as it really is – a society with behavioral
norms and societal values very different from those that prevail in Manhattan or
Mayfair; a cruel, violent society that suppresses its women, oppresses it
homosexuals, represses its political dissidents; a society that, while not
legally permitting it, at least socially condones the “honor killing” of young
women, the brutalization of political rivals, and the summary execution of
homosexuals – if one presents the Palestinian society as its true, unvarnished
self, it makes nonsense of the worldview of Israel’s empowered
Indeed, it exposes their support for a Palestinian state,
adjacent to the nation’s only international airport and abutting the length of
the Trans-Israel Highway, as dangerous folly.Precluding winning
this is essentially the position to which Israeli civil society elites have
mortgaged themselves – and their personal prestige and professional
Accordingly, they cannot permit portrayal of Palestinian
society as it really is, i.e., permit Israel to go on a strategic diplomatic
offensive. Clearly this precludes the captains of Israel’s public diplomacy from
adopting a winning strategy, as this would disastrously undercut their own
As a result, Israeli endeavors are inevitably reduced to
defensive tactical responses, chasing events rather than preempting them, and
doomed to failure.
This – far more than international animosity, global
anti-Semitism or George Soros – is the underlying reason for Israel’s abysmal
performance on the public diplomacy front.Elements of remedy?
in Part I of this analysis, the remedy for this malaise does not lie in Israel’s
political anatomy, but in its sociological topography, and while the details of
such a remedy and their envisaged mechanism of operation must await a future
column, the following must be made clear.
The remedy does not entail
changing the elected political leadership, as two decades of disappointment from
ostensibly hawkish candidates has depressingly demonstrated. Instead it involves
fundamentally transforming the elite structure of Israel’s civil society and the
discourse it generates.
It requires empowering and emplacing new
counter-elites, which in turn requires creating nuclei and raising banners
around which such alternative elites can coalesce and the hitherto hesitant can
It calls for setting up a “theater of engagement” to accommodate
an ongoing adversarial intellectual clash between these emergent new elites and
the incumbent old ones – a clash which the latter cannot evade. This must be a
theater for which the followers of the old elites comprise a permanent
It must be a clash in which the ideas of the new elites are
proven superior – substantively and morally – a clash in which those of the old
elites are defeated and discredited in full view of their flock.
the only way to erode their power and diminish their influence.
this is grasped, unless such a venture is initiated by those who truly endorse
the Zionist ideal, all will soon be irretrievably
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