The Foreign Ministry turned down instructions to change Israel’s public relations (hasbara) policy following a series of recent events in which IDF operations have cost the lives of several Palestinian civilian bystanders, with the most recent botched assassination attempt taking the lives of three children.
But the ministry definitely plans to explain Israel’s position to the world. The Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Public Affairs Gideon Meir summarizes the message: “Israel is under attack and its citizens are victims of Qassam fire by terror organizations.” And how will it be communicated? By focusing media attention on the suffering in Sderot.
“The struggle to explain our position is an important central aspect in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” Meir tells Ynet. “We will continue to bring foreign journalists to Sderot, opposite the photographs from the Gaza Strip. We don’t shoot civilians intentionally and if Palestinian civilians are hurt during IDF operations, we are sorry from the depths of our hearts."
"Another fact we will emphasize in our public relations campaign," Meir added, "is the fact that all this firing towards us happens after the IDF completely withdrew from Gaza and the Palestinians. Instead of starting financial and social processes, they are busy firing Qassams at Sderot.”
The Foreign Ministry recognizes the fact that the critical western media sees only the effects and not the causes. That is to say, it examines only the deaths of innocent Palestinians and not the continuous rocket attacks towards Sderot and Gaza perimeter communities.
Therefore Israel’s public relations efforts will opt to focus on the suffering of Sderot residents. The Foreign Ministry has already recruited Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal as an “ambassador” of sorts, to explain to the world what is really happening on the battle grounds, between Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and Sderot. Likewise, in speeches to and meetings with international diplomats, Israeli leaders are making sure to bring home the point that Israel is protecting itself with the intent to hit terrorists, while terror organizations intentionally target Qassams at innocent civilians.
‘Active campaign needed’
Former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) said, “The killing of Palestinian children leads the world to criticize Israel. But if I was foreign minister today, I would embark on an active public relations campaign, which shows the side of Israeli suffering.”
“The method is active campaigning. Not apologizing, but presenting the position of Israeli citizens that are victims of Qassam attacks and Palestinian terror. This is the only way we can influence world public opinion,” Shalom said.
Shalom identifies mistakes in Israel’s current public relations tactics. “The mistake comes from the government’s stuttering. Olmert and Peretz stutter and don’t do what they need to. Every person involved in terrorism, including the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, needs to know that he may have to pay the price. Israeli public relations should say that no one is immune and Israel will act to realize its sovereignty,” he added.