As Israel's image continues to deteriorate in the world, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided to make an unprecedented move by hiring a network of European firms to conduct the state's public relations campaign throughout the continent.
The campaign will strive to acquaint Europeans with Israel's character beyond the conflict with the Arab world. It will include more modern sides of the state – its culture, economy, history, tourism, high-tech, food, music, and more.
The Foreign Ministry has decided to launch the campaign in Europe's most influential countries – Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the Czech Republic. It is expected to cost NIS 12 million ($3.26 million) a year.
It will be the first time Israel uses ad firms in Europe to such great extent. During Operation Defensive Shield Israel hired the US firm Howard Rubenstein, and in 2004, during the debate on the separation fence at The Hague, it accepted services from the French firm Publicis services free of charge.
The move comes not a moment to soon, as reports from embassies abroad have been particularly concerning to Israeli leaders recently. In Britain and the Scandinavian states boycotts of Israeli products are on the rise, with successful chains in Britain refusing to sell products made in settlements and often all Israeli products as well.
All of Europe's Israeli embassies were ordered to survey three local PR firms and take offers, with a goal of hiring European public relations advisers to guide diplomats.
The embassies will also poll public opinion now and in one year in order to gauge the success of the campaign. The goal is to invest €2.5 million in each country per year.
Lieberman told Yedioth Ahronoth Sunday that "the goal is to give our representatives in central European countries additional tools for the battle over public opinion".
"With proper and professional work in the field we can significantly improve Israel's standing and support for it," he said. Envoys were also pleased, saying that Lieberman had been speaking of reform in PR for a while but that he had not backed it up with sufficient funds until now.
"Israel's situation with public opinion in Europe is a catastrophe," an Israeli diplomat in Europe said. "The Palestinians control messages and are preparing everyone for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. Public opinion supports them despite the fact that they are unwilling to come to the negotiations table. We have no choice but to wage a battle for our image."