Hasbara fail: the ambassadors mutiny

Israel/Palestine

Some late developments from Israel only solidify the impression that this country is working hard to destroy its international reputation and simply cannot help itself because of internal pressures from rightwing politicians.

First, annexation of the West Bank is being pushed aggressively so that Likudniks can win the Israeli election, in complete disregard of international opinion. Harriet Sherwood in the Guardian:

Prominent members of Israel‘s ruling Likud party have proposed the annexation of part of the West Bank as the battle for rightwing votes intensifies before the general election in less than three weeks.

Government minister Yuli Edelstein told a conference in Jerusalem that the lack of Israeli sovereignty over Area C – the 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli military control in which all settlements are situated – “strengthens the international community’s demand for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines”.

About that international opinion: Here is a delicious story in Ynet about the Israeli ambassadors complaining to the home office about the crap they have to push to the world, and a Netanyahu aide slapping them down:

[Ambassador to the UN Ron] Prosor, one of the highest ranking Israeli diplomats in the world, asked [National Security Council head Yaakov] Amidror what was the rationale behind timing the decision to promote construction in area E1 (between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim)  after the UN resolution to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to an observer state status.

Prosor’s fellow ambassadors, who found it difficult to explain to the world the basis of Israel’s foreign policy on the matter, applauded Prosor….


Ambassadors left the conference feeling highly displeased. “It ended in unpleasant tones. Prosor asked a completely legitimate question and was rebuked. We don’t argue that our job is to represent the state, but those who do have to understand the logic behind its decisions.”…

President Shimon Peres also discussed the Palestinian issue on Monday, for the second time this week. A day after declaring Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to be a partner for peace and severely criticizing Netanyahu and Lieberman’s handling of diplomacy, the president said that “there is nothing wrong with talking to Hamas, as long as it accepts the terms of the Quartet

A key point in that Ynet piece is that the government has no choice but to annex, and that it knows it is killing itself internationally:

It should be noted that the Foreign Ministry recommended to the government to postpone any counter-measures to the Palestinian bid so as not to focus international attention on Israel, fearing it may be seen as vindictive.
 
OK, but there is too much internal political pressure not to annex. Again from that Ynet piece: “Amidror said that there was a need to make it clear to the Palestinians that unilateral moves on their part come with a price.” And check this out, from the Times of Israel, echoing that Guardian piece above:

[Likud member of Knesset] MK Yariv Levin advocated a slow but steady de facto annexation of the West Bank, mainly by expanding existing settlements and taking whatever steps were possible to apply laws on Jewish communities beyond the Green Line.

“In this way, we will try, slowly but surely, to expand the circle of settlements, and to afterwards extend the roads that lead to them, and so forth. At the end of this process, the facts on the ground will be that whatever remains [of the West Bank] will be merely marginal appendages,” he said.

Last week, two senior Likud MKs caused an uproar when they stated that the party does not support a two-state solution, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech, during which he in principle agreed to a demilitarized Palestinian state, if the Palestinians recognized Israel as a Jewish state.

Israel might think it can annex under the radar. But nothing is escaping European attention; this is what their ambassadors have to sell.

The mutiny by the ambassadors may have been sparked by an upstart Israeli thinktank that released a study last week.

“Israel’s public diplomacy apparatus, contrary to its poor reputation, is well-coordinated and highly sophisticated. Israel’s diplomatic isolation, therefore, cannot be attributed to a mythic ‘hasbara problem’; it can only be a product of Israeli policy itself

Haaretz reported on the study: There is causal connection between Israel’s poor international image and the policies of its government.

“Instead of dealing with the connection between the policies of Israel’s government and the country’s image in the world,” [Molad thinktank study] continues, “a myth is taking hold, one which stresses an ‘advocacy problem’ caused by anti-Israel organizations and institutions which exploit double standards and even anti-Semitic tendencies in the international community in order to damage Israel.”

The study insists that “inflating anti-Israel propaganda on the one hand, and inflating criticism of Israeli advocacy on the other hand, deflects public attention away from the causal connections between the erosion of Israel’s image and of its international status and the policies of its government.”

And interestingly, Haaretz even suggested that the ambassadors should bring the study up:

Next week in Jerusalem, the Foreign Ministry will hold its annual conference of the country’s ambassadors around the word. During past meetings, former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman regularly upbraided and insulted Israel’s ambassadors, the participants of the conference. He claimed that instead of explicating Israel’s policies and positions more assertively, and defending “national honor,” the country’s diplomats cowered and surrendered around the world. But now Lieberman, facing indictment, has left the Foreign Ministry – and the ambassadors conference this year may serve as a good opportunity to discuss Molad’s findings.

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