Thankfully, the unsavory allegations of harassment against the former Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) are behind us. But the fallout from further impending resignations and bitter infighting amongst key officials remain the order of the day and continue inhibiting one of the most important divisions of government from fulfilling its primary obligations.
Yet the reality is that the shortcomings of the PMO long precede the Netanyahu government and are not primarily related to personality conflicts. One of the principal weaknesses has been the long standing failure to ensure that vital government information services are efficiently managed and coordinated at the political and military level. One would have expected that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, sensitive to the importance of the war of ideas, would have regarded rectifying this state of affairs as a priority.
Alas, this failed to eventuate and despite possessing a powerful case to justify our actions and display our bona fides to the world at large, due to a combination of incompetence and failure to respond in a timely manner as issues arise, our cause continues to be ineffectively advocated.
This was exemplified by the appalling manner in which we mishandled the recent breakdown of negotiations with the Palestinians.
We had agreed to discussions without preconditions. It was the Palestinians who broke up the talks on the grounds that we rejected their outrageous demands to accede to another settlement freeze and recognize the 1967 armistice lines as the opening benchmark for negotiating borders. Yet Palestinian spokesmen succeeded in convincing the global media that it was due to our intransigence that the talks had collapsed.
Only several days later did an Israeli government spokesman belatedly explain that the Palestinians refused to even consider our security requirements, making it inconceivable for us to start drawing maps.
In the global battle to obtain public support, our government seems oblivious to the critical imperative of promoting our narrative in a timely and effective manner. In stark contrast, the Palestinians, repeatedly and systematically, articulate their distorted and false version, which alas, much of the world now blindly accepts.
Again and again the media recycles the false Palestinian narrative of our having indulged in ethnic cleansing in 1948 and were responsible for the “expulsion” of millions of displaced and suffering Palestinian refugees. We seem to have given up refuting these lies.
It is also only recently that we began drawing attention to the massive expulsion of Jews from Moslem countries and the appropriation of their property without any restitution that was cruelly orchestrated at the time of Israel’s establishment. And yet, in stark contrast to Arab refugees, they were fully integrated within Israeli society.
On the other hand, we frenziedly concentrate on justifying our “legitimacy” and “right to exist as a nation” to the point where it has become a counterproductive exercise.
During his June visit to Washington, Netanyahu adamantly conveyed to President Obama why ‘67 borders plus “agreed” swaps were a prescription for disaster. Yet we became silent when the Europeans and others subsequently pressed us to implement this formulation. Israeli spokesmen should be vigorously rejecting this demand, pointing out that it conflicts with 1967 UN Resolution 242 and conflicts with undertakings made to Israel by the former Bush Administration. Besides, the intransigent Palestinians have clearly stated that they would reject “swaps” enabling us to retain the major settlement blocs and Jewish Jerusalem, thus ensuring that the indefensible armistice lines of 1948 would de facto become the borders. If we fail to firmly repudiate these demands today, a possibly re-elected Obama will be encouraged to seek to impose these disastrous borders upon us in the future.
Likewise, we should be far more aggressive in urging the US and others to formally endorse our rejection of the Palestinian refugee “right of return” to Israel, on the grounds that implementation of such a procedure would effectively result in the demise of the Jewish State.
It is only recently that our Prime Minister has belatedly begun hammering the truth about the all-pervasive Palestinian culture of death and criminality and the barbaric indoctrination of children from kindergarten level sanctifying the murder of Jews. It is only now that we have begun stressing that this incitement to genocide emanates no less from the PA than Hamas, highlighting the charade of portraying any Palestinian leader as a genuine peace partner.
We must also actively refute the bizarre liberal Western and US efforts to depict the hate-filled Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a moderate group. Otherwise a future US administration will be more likely to seek to placate the new Islamic regimes by pressuring us to make further unilateral concessions to the Palestinians. We must explain that appeasing extremists not merely harms us but poses no less a threat to Western interests and will inevitably serve to embolden Jihadists to extort more in order to achieve their ultimate goal of global domination.
In this context, we should not overestimate the impact on us of the conflicts between the Sunnis and Shiites. Yes, the Saudis would be overjoyed if we intervened to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear status. But we should not overlook the fact that the one issue which continues to unite extremist Sunnis and Shiites is their ultimate objective of eliminating Jewish sovereignty in the region, even if genocidal means are required to achieve that goal.
Benjamin Netanyahu is blessed with an extraordinary gift of articulating the case for Israel. But unless he also ensures that the government employs competent people capable of expeditiously responding in the war of ideas, he must be held accountable for our failures in this area.
In the coming monthswe will be confronting grave diplomatic challenges with existential implications. Netanyahu must recognize that one of the highest priorities of his office is to provide effective liaison between the IDF, the Foreign Ministry and other divisions to ensure that Israel responds speedily and acts efficiently in the face of the ongoing defamatory campaigns being launched against us.
Only too often we remain the last cab off the rank when it comes to damage control. By the time we respond to Palestinian lies and subterfuge, it is invariably too late and the initial falsehoods which dominated the media cannot be undone.
Examples abound. One need only recall the Jenin “massacre”, the Muhammad Al- Dura libel, the Goldstone Report, the Mavi Marmara flotilla and the ongoing stream of false allegations in which our responses were always far too late and frequently ineffective.
We have a powerful even irrefutable case based on facts. But it must be communicated clearly and professionally. It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office to implement this and it is Netanyahu’s direct obligation to ensure that his office is manned by the best available staff. Until now, notwithstanding a number of talented individuals serving in the PMO, overall the information services remain an abysmal failure. The time is long overdue for the Prime Minister to intervene. If some of his current staff are incapable of fulfilling their obligations, he should replace them with personnel competent to do so.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post.