Lieberman playing ping pong
Photo: Assi Cohen

Busy playing ping-pong

Israel’s Foreign Ministry officials forgot basic public relations rule

Part 1 of article


While Avigdor Lieberman and Yuli Edelstein were busy playing ping-pong, the Foreign Ministry performed a diplomatic flic flac that demonstrated the failure of Israel’s public relations efforts. The Foreign Ministry forgot the basic rule: In order to engage in PR, we need a clear diplomatic direction. Yet when instead of making decisions one keeps on changing his mind, we get nowhere and usually sustain blows from all directions.


Catharine Ashton was appointed as Europe’s foreign policy chief, who is supposed to be the EU’s “Hillary Clinton.” Instead, she managed to fail through impressive inaction. Once criticism against her intensified, Ashton decided to do something: There’s nothing like a trip to the Middle East to demonstrate European involvement in global affairs. After all, the “peace process” has allowed many generations of diplomats to make a living.


Europe’s foreign ministry spokesman stated that the focus of the trip would be a visit to the Gaza Strip, where Ashton will personally look into what happens to great sums of European money transferred to Gaza.


Ashton has good reason to show interest in the issue of funds earmarked for Gaza: For three months now, Salam Fayyad’s Palestinian Authority, the EU, and Gaza’s Hamas-controlled energy authority have been embroiled in a financial dispute – the Gaza and Ramallah governments have been blaming each other for taking over 50% of the aid transferred by the EU to the Gaza power plant.


As result of the dispute, Hamas authorities had to significantly reduce the production of electricity in the Strip. Yet as this story has no connection to Israel, the global media did not bother to show interest in it.


A small problem remained: In the past year, Israel has not allowed senior foreign officials to enter the Strip, arguing this would constitute a victory for Hamas and grant international legitimacy to the organization. In addition, our officials feared that such visits will be used as a platform for slamming Israel. And so, requests by the foreign ministers of France, Turkey, and Ireland, among others, to enter Gaza via Israel were denied. No problem, said the EU foreign ministry spokesman. Should Israel refuse to allow Ashton to enter Gaza, the commissioner will do so via Egypt, through the Rafah Crossing.


This was seemingly a golden opportunity for Israel’s PR effort: We could have lauded Commissioner Ashton’s opportunity to see that Israel is not responsible for the blockade. After all, Gaza is open to Egypt via the Rafah Crossing. Only last week, 3,000 Gazans passed through Rafah freely en route to their studies, to receive medical care, or on their way back to the Strip after a trip abroad – all these people asked for and received a permit from the Hamas and Egypt governments, which coordinate the operation of the crossing. The thousands of people who passed through the crossing including six British parliament members and the Irish foreign minister, who used his trip through Rafah to condemn the “Israeli blockade” on Gaza.


But what did Israel end up doing? Read part 2 of the article Thursday evening


Avi Trengo is a journalist


פרסום ראשון: 03.11.10, 11:15
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