Failed Israeli public relations are partially to blame for a peak in antisemitism not seen since World War II and rise in anti-Israel bashing, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Sunday as he promised to fight both phenomenons.
“The state of Israel is in trouble,” said Lapid as he blamed the situation on the past government, which had been headed by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“There was a complete neglect” of Israel’s foreign relations and its public relations including in the world media, Lapid said, promising to repair that damage by reinvesting in the foreign ministry which had been neglected under Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure.
“The results are dire,” Lapid said. “Antisemitism has reached a peak that has not been seen since World War II. Attacks against Israel in the United States and Europe are a rolling disaster.”
During his brief speech on the matter, Lapid never actually mentioned Netanyahu, but alluded to him and his government.
The time had come, he said, “to tell the Israeli story differently.”
What has happened as a result of past government neglect is that Israel finds itself in an “unbelievable situation” in which “a democratic and law-abiding state is under attack by terrorist organizations, and considerable parts of the enlightened Western world support those terrorist organizations,” Lapid said.
He theorized that the issue was lack of information.
“No one has explained to them what was really going on here.”
Israel’s enemies invested money in a campaign against the Jewish state, while the Foreign Ministry and other Israeli venues lacked funds for political reasons, Lapid said.
This is a situation that can be changed because “the world is not automatically against us,” said Lapid. After six weeks on the job, he said, it was clear to him, “we have many more friends than we have been told about” and there are spheres, including in the diplomatic arena, where the situation can be improved,” he added.
Since taking office, Lapid said, he has spoken with more than 70 “heads of state,” foreign ministers and members of the US Congress who are not against Israel.
Lapid recalled how he had traveled to Brussels earlier this month to address the European Union Foreign Affairs Council. He was the first Israeli to address the council since 2008. “Contrary to what you have been told, they are not against us either,” said Lapid.
He listed the new government’s achievements, without stating that some of them were built on Netanyahu’ successes – such as opening the first embassy in the United Arab Emirates earlier this month.
Lapid also spoke of advances that were directly linked to the new government such as a “dramatic and rapid” improvement in the country’s ties with the neighboring country of Jordan, with which, he said, “an irreparable rift” would have occurred.
Israel can do a better job at galvanizing those who are prone to support the Jewish state by working with them differently, Lapid said.
It’s important “not to immediately announce that those who disagree with us are antisemitic and oppress Israel. This is not how state relations are conducted.”
Both he and Bennett, Lapid said, plan to highlight Israel’s liberal and democratic nature.
To help improve Israel’s public relations capabilities the former Strategic Affairs Ministry has been folded into the Foreign Ministry, Lapid said.
The Foreign Ministry budget is also about to grow, Lapid said. “It is simply absurd, that the Palestinian Authority should have more representatives in the world than the State of Israel.
In addition, the Foreign Ministry will work in partnership with the Prime Minister’s Office and will be part of all diplomatic and security related decisions, from COVID-19, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran, Lapid said.
“There are no critical decisions in Israel that do not have international implications, and therefore there will be no critical decisions that will not involve the Foreign Ministry,” he explained.
“Restoring the senior status of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” is a goal that both I and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett share, Lapid said.