Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Critical Importance of Israeli Public Diplomacy

From Institute for Contemporary Affairs, founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation, JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF, Vol. 6, No. 9, 23 August 2006, by Dr. Raanan Gissin...

  • Instead of the war being about Israel's right of self-defense, Hizballah was able to turn it around so that the issue on the international agenda became Israel's destruction of Lebanon. Israel should have been seen as the victim. We were being attacked. We were the ones who fulfilled all of the requirements of the game. We were true to the international border, we restrained ourselves, we held back. Why should it be that once we start attacking, we immediately start to lose in the diplomatic arena? Because Nasrallah and his patrons in Iran successfully integrated the "ABCs" of public diplomacy into their long-term strategic war doctrine.
  • Nasrallah ordered his men to remove their uniforms and blend into the population and continue to fight from within the population. In this way, when Israel attacks Hizballah, the scene is one of Israel moving against what appears to be a civilian population, even though rockets fired from these villages are striking Israel. Attacks on what looks like civilian targets can then be called "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes."
  • Israel now faces the "special forces" of the Iranian military, the best guerilla warfare units, in front-line positions. The whole concept of how they operate on the battlefield and in public diplomacy is directed by Iran. Over the last twenty-five years Iran has gradually created a global network, first forming an axis with Syria and then building up Hizballah, with Lebanon serving as a regional theater, part of Iran's global design in its confrontation with the West.
  • Israel had been operating on the assumption that Hizballah was a terrorist organization like Hamas or the PLO that had to be neutralized in order to bring about stability. But these are not merely terrorist gangs. This is an army - a well-trained, well-organized, and ideologically indoctrinated guerilla army - and Israel did not make that point strongly enough at the beginning of the war, neither to the world, nor to itself.
  • The conflict with Hizballah in Lebanon is a testing ground - like Spain in 1936 - for weapons, tactics, and doctrine of how Iran is going to fight the war when it comes to confront the West. Hizballah in south Lebanon with its 13,000 missiles represents a front-line position of Iran. Not surprisingly, Nasrallah reportedly found refuge in the Iranian embassy in Beirut when his underground headquarters came under Israel Air Force bombardment.
  • From the minute Israel left Lebanon in May 2000, Iran began to implement its initial plan for a takeover of Lebanon by Hizballah. First, it got into the political system and then from within it is trying to take over. Israel struck over two thousand Hizballah targets, and not only in south Lebanon. Hizballah is fully deployed in south Lebanon, Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and on the border with Syria. By looking at the targets that Israel struck, one can see the extent of the Hizballah takeover.

Changing Perceptions: From a Theater of War to a Crime Scene
Public diplomacy for any country, not just Israel, has gone global. While the conflict may be determined in local terms, such as Israel's fight against Hizballah, the ramifications of the action itself are global in nature. Therefore, public diplomacy must be geared toward the global scene.
Ever since 9/11, we have been in a different type of war. We were exposed for the first time to a global network of terrorist organizations, sort of a multi-national corporation of non-state actors.
On the Lebanese scene, through the careful manipulation of evidence, the theater of war has turned into a crime scene. Every action that Israel takes in Lebanon - with its densely populated villages that Israel must operate in because that's the only way that we can uproot the terrorists in them - creates an opportunity for the other side to use public diplomacy with global ramifications. Thus, instead of the war being about Israel's right of self-defense, Hizballah was able to turn it around so that the issue on the international agenda became Israel's destruction of Lebanon and Israel as the cause of world instability. The victim becomes the criminal....

[The article ie too lengthy for this forum. Follow this link for the full text.]


...Hizballah invests $15-20 million a year in its own TV station, Al Manar. That is more than the overall public relations (hasbara) budget of the State of Israel. Its broadcasts are pure propaganda, but they are professional and are carried worldwide via satellite and cable.
We need to recognize that the media is a tool and that it can serve as a weapons system. Hizballah is ten years ahead of Israel in the ability to use and manipulate the media for its strategic purposes. I don't want to underestimate the limitations that a democracy has in instituting a coherent long-term public diplomacy strategy, but thinking has to start about this as a strategic issue.

... From now on.... the role of public diplomacy is much greater. There are only two basic scenarios. Either you fight in densely populated areas on enemy territory, where the enemy is, or the enemy fights on yours. Israel is not a country that can absorb casualties. One of Israel's basic security principles is that it cannot afford to fight wars on its territory.

Israel's existence is based on deterrence. ... messing with Israel is too costly. This is a message that can set in motion the need to come to a political agreement with Israel.

The threat Israel faces is not just Hizballah, it's Iran, and we should alert the rest of the world to that...Tell them what we are facing, and then mobilize the world as well. Military action alone is insufficient.

The globalization of terror under the auspices of Iran is a much more formidable and more clear and present danger than the Iranian nuclear threat. The minute the Iranians get nuclear weapons, they may not immediately send them against Israel on their missiles. But this will give them the kind of protection and deterrence to use the methods that they're using now in Lebanon. For instance, if there was an Iranian terrorist coup in Egypt, the world would have to weigh any reaction differently if Iran had nuclear weapons.

The Iranians are coming, and we better read the writing on the wall. It is not in Arabic; it is in Persian, and it is still not too late to learn.

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Dr. Raanan Gissin, a former senior advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is one of Israel's leading spokesmen to the foreign press and the international community on security and strategic issues.

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