Rebuilding Public diplomacy: The case of Israel
By: Eytan Gilboa and Dr. Nahman Shai
In the last twenty years the Jewish state has faced enormous foreign policy and national security challenges. The main threats evolved from a protracted low intensity confl ict with the Palestinians and Iran’s proxies in the Middle East: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.Several dramatic events exposed serious weaknesses in Israeli Public Diplomacy including the first Palestinian Intifada (1987–1992), the failure of the Oslo peace process (1993–2000), the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon (2000), the Second Palestinian Intifada (2000–2006), the infamous UN World Conference Against Racism held in Durban (2001), the Israeli unilateral disengagement from Gaza (2005) and the Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah (2006).
All these events demonstrated that Israel was paying heavy political and diplomatic costs for the failure to eff ectively employ Public Diplomacy. Successive Israeli governments have been aware of the need to rebuild Israel’s Public Diplomacy. Leaders have called for major reforms but the awareness and the vigorous statements have never been translated into actions. Substantial public support and engagement in Public Diplomacy is required for successful expansion and utilization of Public Diplomacy. The Israeli public has strongly supported reforms in the Public Diplomacy system. The media oft en complained about the lack of eff ective Public Diplomacy, the public has been aware of this defi ciency and several bodies such as the State Comptroller and the Keenest Committee on Defense and Foreign Aff airs issued critical reports documenting the abysmal results and demanding major reforms. Yet, the government has never made a serious attempt to build an effective Public Diplomacy system and has never consulted the people and local civil society organs in the formulation and implementation of Public Diplomacy.