Ra'anan Gissin: It's Iran, stupid

"The Hizbullah-Iranian terrorist axis is not just an Israeli problem."

raanan gissin 88 (photo credit: )
raanan gissin 88
(photo credit: )
Ra'anan Gissin, prime minister Ariel Sharon's recently sidelined, gravel-voiced spokesman, may be watching the current crisis from his living room, but he had advice Thursday for how Israel should be waging the public relations campaign: "Emphasize Iran, Iran and Iran." Gissin, who formally left his job as the prime minister's foreign media spokesman on July 15, said that over the past three years, Israel has gotten the message across that the Iranian nuclear threat was not only an Israeli problem, but something that should concern the whole world. In the same vein, he said Israel needed to "engage in a similar process in reshaping the world's understanding" that Iran's terrorist threat was no less critical than the nuclear one, and that it too was not just directed against Israel. "Let us not forget that Hizbullah's first attack was in 1983, against the US Marine barracks that killed 241 people," he said. "Just as we introduced the idea that the Iranian nuclear threat was not just an Israeli problem, so is the Hizbullah-Iranian terrorist axis not just an Israeli problem." Gissin, who as Sharon's foreign media adviser since 2001 emerged as one of Israel's leading spokesmen, was slowly eased out of his job after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took over. Nevertheless, he has refrained from slinging mud at the Prime Minister's Office and declined to say whether he thought the current public relations effort was being run effectively. According to Gissin, Israel needs to make it clear to the world that Hizbullah is an organ of the Iranian revolution. It was vital for Israel to "fill in its bank of international legitimacy" now, he said, because this legitimacy for the current IDF action was running out. "This legitimacy will shrink as a result of the pictures coming out of Lebanon as to what we did there to reduce Hizbullah to a manageable position and destroy its military infrastructure," he said. "We also regrettably had to destroy some infrastructure in Lebanon, and the pictures of that destruction are creating a situation where at the end of the operation, we are going to stand with coffers empty of credit." As a result, he said, even before finishing the military operation, Israel needed to hammer home "the Iranian-Hizbullah-Syrian axis of terror" message. Israel needed to stress that this was the most formidable threat facing not just Israel, but the international community, he said. By doing so, he said Israel would create legitimacy for future action against Hizbullah, or even against Iran. "We have to make certain that the pictures that come out of Lebanon show not only destruction, but also the extent of the network Hizbullah spread out throughout the country, where a terrorist organization simply took hostage a country with three million people," he said. Gissin warned that the grace period Israel has been given by the international media was "quickly running out" and "we are seeing more and more pictures of the destruction of Lebanon, and less and less of the causes, which are the rocket attacks in Israel." Gissin said Israel needed to go on a public-diplomacy counteroffensive to show that a weakened Hizbullah was not only good for Israel and Lebanon, but for the entire world. Gissin, who served in the IDF Spokesman's Office during the Lebanon War, said that Israel "does not have a public relations problem, it has a strategic problem of justifying our existence." He said the current conflict can be used to show that Israel was merely struggling for survival. "The basic theme now of Israel's public diplomacy should be simply 'back to basics'" he said. "We have the opportunity to show now that our struggle is not territorial, it is over our mere existence." Israel, he said, should stress to the West that if "we are not allowed to live our lives because of the presence of Hizbullah and its ties with Iran, then neither will the rest of the world." Gissin said Iran's strategy - using agents like Hizbullah - was to "disrupt the possibility of normal life in various countries, to bring down their social and economic structure. "Iranian's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't only want to erase Israel off the map, he wants to erase the map and build Islamic components. Lebanon is the clearest example, and we need to show that."