Livni aide defends foreign minister's decision to leave wartime PR to experts

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni did not fail to execute her job during the Second Lebanon War, even though she was not interviewed by the foreign press during the conflict, a Livni associate said this week. The Winograd Committee's final report will include an evaluation of Israel's public relations effort during the war. While Livni was one of the few Israeli leaders who emerged unscathed in Winograd's interim report, she may face criticism in the final report, which is expected in August. Livni's associates defended her performance during the war, saying that she made the right decision to focus on diplomatic activity and leave the public relations effort to more experienced spokespeople like opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, Social Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin. "It is wrong to say that public relations is the the right test of success or failure," a Livni associate said. "The foreign minister needed to work on a diplomatic exit strategy from Lebanon and she tried to end the war from the second day. If other people speak to the foreign press better than she does, it is wrong to make her do it. Foreign ministers should be judged on their diplomatic achievements and ending the war diplomatically was a big success." Former prime minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said he had warned Olmert ahead of the war that it would be fought largely on the foreign press battlefield. Gissin said emergency procedures for explaining Israel's position were planned ahead of the war but never implemented. Gissin, whose tenure ended shortly before the war, was not part of Israel's public relations campaign. He said he had wanted to testify to the Winograd Committee, but that its representatives said they could not reach him because he was abroad. "There was no hasbara (public relations) in the war," Gissin said. "The Prime Minister's Office controlled the public relations effort during the war. People asked where the Foreign Ministry was during the war, but it was the Prime Minister's Office's fault. Winograd's recommendation in the interim report that the Foreign Ministry be involved in decisions of national security has to apply to public relations."