Against the backdrop of the upcoming Knesset elections, the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs is set to launch a campaign aiming to boost the West Bank settlements' global image.
The campaign, which will cost NIS 1 million (roughly $261,000), will be geared towards prominent bloggers and social network users both in Israel and abroad.
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The paperwork for the project was submitted to the accountant general shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the elections are to be moved up to January, making the initiative appear like a campaign move. And with the Likud primaries coming up, the initiative certainly won't hurt the minister of public diplomacy and Diaspora affairs, Yuli Edelstein, who is seeking a spot on the party's Knesset list.
The ministry has asked the accountant general to allow the World Zionist Organization to lead the project without auctioning off the contract.
According to the application, the project's primary goal is to "bolster the legitimacy" of the settlements in light of the criticism leveled at Israel over its settlement activity. The request further notes that that the settlers are misrepresented as "a violent, conquering and destructive group," while Israel is considered an illegitimate state controlling disputed land.
'Waste of public funds'
Getting wind of the initiative, Peace Now Director Yariv Oppenheimer accused the government of "wasting public funds to justify settlement policies and to improve the settlers' global image."
"The government has turned into the Yesha Council's public relations firm, and is financing these endeavors with public funds that come out of the Israeli public's pocket," he said. "Even when the time comes to cut budgets, there is always money to be spent on the settlers' image."
The Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs dismissed the charges.
"This project seeks to set off proactive measures aiming to expose opinion leaders abroad to the complex Israeli reality, thus improving Israel's global image," the ministry said in a statement. "This activity is in line with the ministry's diplomatic strategy. The activity aims to take foreign delegations on trips across Israel, including the sites of conflict and the settlements, which stand at the center of the de-legitimization efforts waged against Israel."
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