Israel Must Appeal to Feelings, Not Just Present Facts, Says Newly Appointed Public Diplomacy Chief Michael Oren (INTERVIEW)
Israel must improve its efforts to defend its narrative by seeking to connect emotionally with people, particularly millennials, the Jewish state’s newly appointed head of public diplomacy told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Member of Knesset Michael Oren of the centrist Kulanu Party, who was appointed on Monday as a deputy minister in the prime minister’s office tasked with making Israel’s case abroad, said that because the country “faces several unprecedented foreign-affairs challenges, such as threats to its legitimacy, the ability to defend itself and its right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state,” it must change its tactics or risk facing continued defamation.
Hinting at strategies he may seek to employ in his new role, Oren highlighted the importance of focusing on appealing to feelings, not just stating facts. “Israel and a great number of courageous organizations abroad have been fighting in the media and on campuses against those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state by educating people about the facts,” he said. “And in this realm, we can defend ourselves very well, because the facts are on our side.”
However, he said, “We need to strengthen the emotional aspect. I’ve often said we’ve been fighting feelings with facts, and feelings usually triumph over facts. We have a profoundly moving story to tell, and we have to learn to tell it better.”
Oren, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the US and the author of Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, nevertheless expressed optimism. Since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, he said, “Israel has never been less isolated in the world as it is today.”
“There are opportunities opening up today which are extraordinary,” he told The Algemeiner, pointing to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent trip to East Africa, which, he said, “opened up tremendous diplomatic and economic opportunities.” These, he added, will be especially important at the United Nations, where the African bloc is comprised of 54 countries.
“I am very excited at the possibility to tap into and maximize those opportunities,” he stated.
While Oren said he was not yet familiar with the specific functions of his new position, he confirmed that he will be “working in close coordination with the prime minister and will remain a member of Kulanu.”
Of this role he said, “This is a fulfillment of a very long journey. I spent about 40 years in the field of foreign policy and diplomacy, as a scholar and practitioner, and I feel deeply privileged to serve Israel at a unique juncture in its diplomatic history.”