Gov't team to blitz US, explain conflict

FM assembles 6 ministers, diplomats for campaign aimed at reframing conflict, strengthening US ties.

Avigdor Lieberman 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Avigdor Lieberman 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The government will unleash a public diplomacy blitz in the US on Sunday aimed at nothing less than reframing the Israeli-Arab conflict. Just a little more than a week after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu returned from London and Berlin, where he took every opportunity to say that the core of the conflict was not the settlements, but rather the failure of the Arab world to recognize the right of the Jews to a state in the region, a blue-ribbon list of government officials will be travelling coast to coast for more than a month bearing much the same message. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has said that public diplomacy needed to be made one of his ministry's top priorities, held a meeting Monday inside the ministry to discuss the new campaign. According to a statement put out by Lieberman's office, government ministers Moshe Ya'alon, Yossi Peled, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, as well as Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and former consul-general in New York Alon Pinkas, will begin on Sunday - in a staggered fashion - fanning out across America, meeting with political and media figures, policy-makers, campus groups and Jewish organizations, in an effort to explain the government's positions. During the campaign, which will last until mid-October, various members of the group will be in each of the following cities: Washington, New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Las Vegas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. In the preparatory meeting held on Monday, Lieberman said that even though recent polls showed that the American public continued to view Israel as an important strategic ally, there was a need to strengthen this connection because of the importance Israel attributed to its relationship with the US. These comments appeared an effort to distance this campaign from the diplomatic cable sent recently by Israel's consul general in Boston, Nadav Tamir, who said the Jewish state was losing ground in American public opinion. Lieberman took issue with that conclusion. The foreign minister said there was a need to present the "historical facts" to Americans and to refute long-entrenched opinions, such as that "settlements are an obstacle to peace." Lieberman said it was important to explain that Arab aggression toward Israel began before there were any settlements, and - in fact - before the creation of the state, and that the true conflict in the region was not between Jews and Arabs, but rather between moderates and extremists.