Sunday, April 06, 2003

A gushing puff piece has appeared in the Jerusalem Post on recent improvements in the Israeli government's public relations program. It claims that dynamic new leadership and better organization are why "Jewish and Israeli media professionals can now be proud of a public affairs apparatus which is equilvant [sic] to anything that Burson-Marsteller or Hill and Knowlton could churn out."

Now I have no doubt that the dedicated flacks staffing the government's brand-spanking-new "National Information Center" are among Israel's finest. But I have a sneaking suspicion that if their work has improved of late, then there is at least one other factor at work: the development in Israel of a consistent, unifying consensus position to attempt to sell to the world. When a country--and even a government--is bitterly divided on fundamental issues, it will inevitably have trouble fending off criticisms (that some in the government may partly share) and convince skeptical foreigners of their case (of which many of the natives themselves may not be convinced). It's also obviously difficult to attract skilled personnel and organize an effective PR effort to convey an ambiguous, confused, halfhearted message.

One example: during my visit to Israel last August, I was given to understand that the Israeli Foreign Ministry under Shimon Peres had a policy of not directly attacking Yasser Arafat. One can only imagine the difficulty of trying to get Israel's message across to the world under such constraints--and the beneficial effects of lifting them.

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