PM's media adviser expected to head new 'hasbara' task force

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to propose in the coming weeks that his current media adviser Yaakov Galanti also head the new Public Diplomacy Task Force that was approved by the cabinet on Sunday. The Task Force will operate out of the Prime Minister's Office with the aim of improving cooperation and coordination among all the various elements currently involved in explaining government policy, both to the Israeli and world media. The aim is to present a credible, unified and consistent information policy. Officials stressed that there was no plan to replace any of the existing spokespeople, but to establish a hasbara information team that will be more pro-active, in contrast to the current situation, where most of the effort is focused on reacting to daily events. The cabinet on Sunday was briefed on the recommendations of the committee chaired by outgoing cabinet secretary Yisrael Maimon, who has been working on the project for a few years, and decided to establish the Public Diplomacy Task Force in the Prime Minister's Office. The idea of a major shake-up in Israel's information campaign was first raised in 2002 after Operation Defensive shield, when it was felt that too much of the information effort was shouldered by the military. A number of state comptroller reports also criticized the government's information effort, calling for a central body to coordinate the campaign. The head of the Task Force will attend all meetings of the ministerial committee on national security, all security-diplomatic discussions and any additional relevant discussions. The head of the Task Force will also serve as the prime minister's media adviser and have the civil service grade and conditions of service equivalent to those of a ministry director-general. The new body will initiate information campaigns and programs and host media events. Responsibility for foreign information will remain in the hands of the Foreign Ministry, the responsibilities of which will not be changed. A regular national information forum in the diplomatic-security sphere will be established to determine Israel's information policy in keeping with the decisions of the prime minister and the government and in accordance with the instructions of the head of the new Task Force.