As tensions around Jerusalem's Temple Mount, also known as al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, continue to bubble, the predominance of images of police violence against Muslim worshippers ignoring Palestinian provocation and aggressions leaves Israel at a disadvantage on the world stage.
After the establishment of the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, officials appointed by the previous administration, who were tasked with presenting Israel's position, were either sacked or reassigned and a dedicated minister was appointed to the task.
However, the failings of Minister Galit Distel-Atbaryan were in complete contrast to the dismantled system, which was able to speak for all branches of government and security, in one clear voice.
When clashes broke out on the contentious Temple Mount in Jerusalem, as Muslims observed the holy month of Ramadan, social media was flooded with video clips and images of police forces beating up Palestinians including women and the elderly who cried out in pain. More clips showed extremist religious Jews carrying lambs making their way to the site to enact the ancient ritual of animal sacrifice practiced by Jews in the days of the Temple thousands of years ago.
The images prompted outrage in the Muslim world and criticism by the international community and all the while – official Israel remained mum.
The few attempts by Jerusalem police to show clips showing the rioting that precipitated the police actions or the authorities preventing the extremist religious zealots from carrying out their plans were drowned in the sea of damning images that brought governments all over the world to condemn Israel and demand answers.
The provocative images were likely also catalysts for rocket fire at Israeli communities in the north and south and for the deadly terror attacks late last week and over the weekend that had killed three and wounded others including the mother of two of the victims, a family from the West Bank settlement of Efrat, who was still fighting for her life in the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Israel for the first time has a minister appointed to messaging but has no dedicated English speaker to provide context to the world press. Even Netanyahu no longer has a foreign press spokesperson and Israel's position is absent from online and even mainstream media.
Distel-Atbaryan claims she has not yet been provided with a budget and is not responsible for Israel's messaging abroad, but in the coalition's dismantling of the previous system, it had also removed those in the Foreign Ministry who did interact with the world media and assigned the job to the Diaspora Minister, where it has been ignored.
Hearing the criticism, the minister attempted to weigh in and put up a post in bad English last Tuesday, which she has since corrected. But this was all too little and too late.
The minister who has not been absent from social media and right-wing media outlets since Netanyahu came to power, has limited her comments to bashing opponents of the government's legislative push to overhaul the judicial system, as well as the courts.
On Sunday she issued a statement again claiming that messaging abroad was not her responsibility but that she cannot deny the validity of the criticism. She again referred to the lack of budget although the previous government had in place credible professionals and tools to handle such situations, all dismantled by Netanyahu's staff when he assumed office.