Bibi’s Messaging Opportunity
Could you ever imagine Glenn Beck landing an interview with President Obama? Or perhaps the First Lady passing over a chit chat with Barbara Walters and the ladies of The View to share anecdotes with Bill O’Reilly?
So why is it that Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak not only picks up the phone when CBS’ Bob Simon – one of TV’s premier anti-Israel attack dogs – comes calling, but actually grants him an exclusive interview?
The Israeli and U.S. administrations could not be further apart when it comes to communications strategy. White House officials are extremely calculated when it comes to their handling of the press in their efforts to ensure positive coverage. In Israel on the other hand, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his spokespeople routinely grant interviews to hostile outlets and the relationship between Israeli ministers and the media appears to be completely haphazard.
“President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House,” opens a recent seminal article on the subject, published by Politico. “There is the iron-fisted control of access to White House information and officials. Top officials recently discouraged Cabinet secretaries from talking about sequestration. And even top officials privately gripe about the muzzle put on them by the White House,” continues Politico.
Of course there are many that are unhappy with the way the administration conducts itself, and there have been many legitimate calls for greater transparency. However, it sure makes for effective propaganda which is a key pursuit of any government seeking to promote its policies.
As we move deeper into the information age the centrality of effective communication strategy for any government, and specifically for Israel, which finds itself under the constant glare of the international news-media spotlight, is becoming more and more apparent.
It is for this reason that Prime Minister Netanyahu may do well to consider adding an extra dimension to his now ongoing efforts to build a new governing coalition. Namely, that he require all of his coalition partners to refrain from granting interviews and releasing public statements on any international affairs without the oversight of his office; a ‘messaging clause.’
The first step towards effectively communicating a clear message is to ensure that although presented from different angles, the ideas originate from the same place. If Netanyahu is the Prime Minister, and is directing policy, he should also be able to oversee how it is conveyed to the public.
The Prime Minister should be able to decide that if a hostile interviewer has been unfair to the state of Israel in his or her reports that they should no longer have access to the elected representatives of the people of Israel. If Bob Simon can’t be trusted to fairly convey the facts on the ground and the positions of Israel’s leaders, he should not be granted the access and therefore the credibility to continue producing his accusatory and cynically manipulated TV segments.
There are only days left to Netanyahu’s coalition building haggling, but as of yet, he has only signed an agreement with one other party. The current situation presents an opportunity to introduce the ‘messaging clause,’ as an important step towards reclaiming Israel’s narrative as it is conveyed by her leaders.