Rejuvenating Israeli diplomacy

 By Maurice Ostroff and Charles Abelsohn



In his January 7 article titled "No Holds Barred: Why Jews are so bad at PR" Rabbi Shmuley Boteach summarized the abject failure of Israel''s public diplomacy. He wrote
"In truth, while the State of Israel was asleep the Arabs pulled off one of the great propaganda coups in global history.. The Palestinians in particular demonstrated a black belt in PR by convincing the world that amid their rejection of every peace deal ever offered to them, including the 1947 UN Partition plan, it is Israel that has no interest in peace:"
"The price paid is steep. What good is having Apache helicopter gunships, or Merkava tanks, to defend your citizens against attack if you can''t even use them because the world thinks you''re always the aggressor?"
His complete article should be required reading by every MK and the first and most important lesson that our future government must learn from it, is that DIPLOMACY and the information war have become vital tools in ensuring Israel''s continues existence.
A corollary is that Israel must appoint a DIPLOMAT, rather than a politician as our next foreign minister. The post is too sensitive to be awarded as a prize in coalition bargaining. The foreign minister like other cabinet ministers need not be an MK. Danny Gillerman and Zalman Shoval are excellent examples of potential foreign ministers.
Israel''s clumsy approach to PR was highlighted at the annual conference of Israel''s ambassadors last month when ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor asked a question that evidently was on the minds of most of the delegates, namely the timing of the announcement of the decision about development of E1 which generated an avalanche of international criticism. Prosor did not question the legitimacy of building in E1. He asked for much-needed information to enable him to deal with questions being asked universally about the timing of the announcement and the stated reason which caused more diplomatic damage than many anti-Israel activists have managed to achieve. According to the Jerusalem Post, one diplomatic official explained afterward that many of the envoys feel they were not properly briefed on the reason for the E1 decision, the timing of it, and what the objectives were of the government''s settlement policy
In response, National Security Council head Ya''acov Amidror in effect told the ambassadors they should represent Israel''s position, resign or go into politics.
It is evident that that those involved in defining our PR policy  are ignorant not only of the meaning of diplomacy but also of elementary tools of good management, one of which is regular feedback so that the planners can learn the results of their actions and revise and re-tune their plans accordingly. Instead of learning from and addressing Ambassador Prosor`s IMPORTANT feedback question, Amidror''s aggressive response is unfortunately typical of the counterproductive arrogant attitude of too many of our MK''s and cabinet ministers in general and our foreign office in particular, not only to our ambassadors but to the many volunteer pro-Israel advocates engaged in the information war.
Many pro-Israel organizations and individuals worldwide consider, with despair, that the Israeli government appears to have abandoned any attempt at public relations and public diplomacy. These organizations and individuals regularly step into the breach, countering anti-Israel actions, but many say they become discouraged when their requests for factual information to assist them in their efforts are ignored. They feel that officialdom regards their efforts as unwelcome interference.
CoHaV, a coalition of Israel advocacy groups around the world with access to about one million pro-Israel advocates is making valiant efforts with a remarkable measure of success to promote Israel''s image. But all too often it is obliged to do no more than damage control and even in this it is hampered by difficulty in obtaining much needed information or assistance from the MFA.
The IDF has however improved its communication significantly, notably during the Pillar of Defense operation providing valuable information promptly; much of it via social media tools. Ourambassadors and the many volunteer Israel advocacy organizations cannot perform effectively unless the government promptly provides the credible information that is absolutely essential in the information war.
Israel needs a friendly, cooperative, rapid response PR team that will PROMPTLY supply helpful CREDIBLE information whenever needed about government, IDF or police actions that are liable to be criticized in the international media. Currently the PR activities of the Prime Ministers Office, The Foreign Office, the IDF and the Ministry of Public Diplomacy appear to work independently of each other resulting at times in issuing contradictory information. They need to be coordinated so that relevant information can be provided in a timely and credible manner
We need a foreign minister who understands that we cannot afford to reject and antagonize friends who are battling anti-Israel movements especially on student campuses, and who will instead ensure that his ministry provides them with the cooperation and tools necessary to enable them to carry on the fight, as adequately equipped and armed as our soldiers.