Helping out. Peres
Photo: Hagai Aharon

Peres to boost Israel's image in Europe

President joins PR effort at request of Foreign Ministry, many citizens. European allies say difficult to defend Israel in light of government's policies

President Shimon Peres is planning to tour Europe in an effort to improve Israel's image in the aftermath of the May 31 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, which left nine Turkish nationals dead.


Peres' visit to two countries has already been confirmed, and his office is working to schedule trips to additional European states.


The president decided to join the public relations effort at the Foreign Ministry's request and also due to calls by many Israeli citizens that he salvage Israel's status within the international community.


Peres' first trip to Europe is scheduled for July 20-22. Sources close to the president said he initiated the PR campaign to prevent Israel's image from deteriorating further.


Even Israel's close European allies have expressed concern over the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Some European politicians have claimed they are finding it difficult to defend Israel's policies because, according to them, the Netanyahu government lacks a diplomatic strategy.


During a meeting in Rome on Thursday, Lieberman invited his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini to lead a European ministerial delegation to Gaza, ending a diplomatic blockade on the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.


FM wants European delegation to Gaza

The proposal came just four days after Israel said it was easing restrictions on imports to Gaza and would allow all strictly "civilian" goods into the strip while preventing weapons and certain dual-use items from entering.


Export restrictions remain in force.


Israel imposed the sanctions after soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by members of the Islamist

movement Hamas and other terror groups on June 25, 2006.


The closure was further tightened the following year when Hamas seized control of the territory.

International pressure on Israel to lift sanctions soared after the deadly flotilla raid.


Israeli media said on Friday that Lieberman had suggested Frattini lead a delegation of colleagues including the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and non EU-member Norway to Gaza so that they could see for themselves that the residents were not starving.


AFP contributed to the report 


פרסום ראשון: 06.25.10, 18:02
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