Martin Sherman, jpost.com
Israel’s ongoing dismal defeat on the public diplomacy front has not only restricted its strategic options and constrained its freedom of action, it is beginning to jeopardize the country’s ability to survive “in an increasingly intolerant and hostile world [which] would think little of sacrificing Israel’s vital interests or even the state itself.” ...
The persistent and pervasive phenomenon of continuing Israeli impotence and incompetence in the conduct of public diplomacy, despite astounding achievements in virtually every other field of human endeavor, has long been a vexing conundrum for many of the country’s staunchest supporters.
It is an enigma that I, too, have long grappled with, and after wracking my brains for well over a decade have come to a perturbing, but demonstrably inescapable, conclusion: Israel is losing the battle for hearts and minds across the world, for a very simple reason, very difficult to accept, yet very easy to prove: It simply does not want to win! I realize of course that such a startling allegation is likely to raise more than a few skeptical eyebrows, but as I said, it is eminently easy to prove its plausibility.
After all, if one wishes to determine the motivation of an organization to achieve an objective, clearly one of the most revealing indices is the amount of resources it allots for achieving it – with highly desired objectives being allotted commensurately high levels of resources, and vice versa.
Accordingly, when one encounters the pitiful resources assigned to Israel’s public diplomacy effort – less than a leading Israeli corporation spends on promoting one of its popular peanut-snacks – one is compelled to conclude that the objective of that effort – winning hearts and minds across the world – is not a high priority objective. In other words, Israel does not really want to win the crucial battle for public opinion! As loath as one might be to accept this, it is a conclusion starkly apparent from the “revealed preference” of successive elected governments, as reflected in their longstanding behavior.
Perverse tale of two ‘Iron Domes’
The reason for this frugality is, of course, not the availability of resources, but the preferences in assigning them. After all, as I have pointed out frequently, were Israel to allot a mere 1 percent of the state budget for public diplomacy, this would make $1 billion available for putting Israel’s case to the world.
Without even broaching, at this stage, the matter of the quality of the message to be conveyed, and the qualifications of the messengers intended to convey it, the mere weight of presence in the media such sums could generate is significant. It is clearly capable of making a substantial change in Israel’s ability to reach out to various publics across the globe, engage influential opinion-makers, and enhance its ability to respond to, and repulse, accusations of its attackers.
The perverse anomaly of Israeli miserliness with regard to its public diplomacy is highlighted by the comparison with the large amounts spent on projects such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system, designed to intercept inaccurate projectiles, with explosive charges usually no larger than about 20 kg. ...
[I]t is one thing to advocate diverting vast some of money for establishing the vigorous defense of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, it is quite another to ensure its effective operation to attain that objective.
In previous “Into the Fray” columns – see for example “Intellectual warriors, not slicker diplomats” (February 20, 2013) – I have sketched a blueprint for the functioning of such an enterprise. This would be effected mainly through the use of government-funded NGOs (by means of an independent authority for strategic diplomacy under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office), unbound by the formalities of protocol and niceties of diplomatic etiquette, staffed by “intellectual warriors,” unfettered by constraints that limit the freedom of response (and initiative) of official organs of state. ...