Israel to open 'there is no occupation' campaign, new minister says

Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distal Atbaryan vows to clarify that Israel has stolen or occupied nothing, and that the Bible is the Jews' deed to the land.

 Palestinians and pro-Palestinian supporters protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza amid days of conflict between the two sides, in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., May 15, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/Rashid Umar Abbasi)
Palestinians and pro-Palestinian supporters protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza amid days of conflict between the two sides, in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., May 15, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/Rashid Umar Abbasi)

Israel plans to launch a campaign to explain to the global community that there “is no occupation,” Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distal Atbaryan said on Monday.

“We have not occupied any territory, there is no occupation.”

Galit Distal Atbaryan

“We have not occupied any territory, there is no occupation,” she told Israel Radio just one day after the government voted to open a new ministry at the potential initial cost of NIS 8 million.

“It’s not every day that a person becomes a minister and opens a ministry from scratch. It’s both emotional and slightly scary,” she said.

What will Israel's new ministry under Galit Distal Atbaryan do?

Distal Atbaryan’s work will come on top of that which is already conducted by the Foreign Ministry and that of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, which will campaign against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

It’s not the first time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tasked a minister with public diplomacy outside the context of the Foreign Ministry. In 2015, he created the Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry. This time around he has revived that office but split it into two and given it slightly different functions.

Galit Distal Atbaryan (credit: GALIT DISTAL ATBARYAN/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Galit Distal Atbaryan (credit: GALIT DISTAL ATBARYAN/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Distal Atbaryan said she disagreed with past diplomatic Foreign Ministry initiatives to rebrand Israel as a country of innovation, agriculture technology, having a great music scene and being tolerant of gay rights, rather than one that is beset by conflict and war.

That initiative says “Listen, we are amazing and wonderful. We have USB sticks and cherry tomatoes and water technology and look at how we did at the Eurovision and what wonderful gay pride parades we have,” she said.

But the response to that, Distal Atbaryan said, is often that’s nice, “but you have stolen and captured a house, so leave the home and do all those wonderful things somewhere else.”

But “we have not captured or stolen a home,” she said.

Israeli minister: "We have not captured or stolen a home"

The time has come to delve into the heart of the matter, she said. First, Israel has to create an infrastructure by which to explain that Jews had historical ties to the region of Judea and Samaria, she said as she referenced the connection that dates back thousands of years.

“People do not know about this,” she said, adding that the Bible is the deed of the Jews to the land.

Once that is understood it would help to put events within perspective, she said. Distal Atbaryan did not address any potential government plans to annex portions of the West Bank, which at present exists outside Israel’s sovereign borders.

The question of a resolution to the issue of the West Bank is separate from the question of occupation, said Distal Atbaryan who explained that a public relations campaign had to be opened in the Arab world.

The equation has to be changed. Netanyahu has explained that the attitude of the Arab world has to change so that “99[%] of the Arab world is with us” and then the conflict with the Palestinians can be resolved through dialogue with them and the Arab world, she said.

“I don’t believe that most of the Arab world hates Jews and Zionists. There are many people in the Arab [states] who have fallen sway to mistaken information and incitement,” Distal Atbaryan said.

Israel has extended its hand in peace to the Arabs and the Palestinians since it accepted the pre-state days when the Jews accepted the UN partition plan in 1947 and all the way through the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, Distal Atbaryan said.

She explained that her office will also deal with public relations campaigns on normalizations with Saudi Arabia and Netanyahu’s push to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear state.

Her office, she said, will also focus on providing materials, information and research for other offices that also deal with public diplomatic campaigns. It will create a common infrastructure that will make it easier for everyone to advocate on behalf of Israel.