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  • February 16, 2013

    Into the Fray: Intellectual warriors, not slicker diplomats


    Israel’s greatest strategic challenge, its gravest strategic failure, its grimmest strategic danger is the (mis)conduct of its public diplomacy.
    Soldiers [illustrative] Photo: Ben HartmanWar is a continuation of politics by other means.
    – Carl von Clausewitz, On War, 1832

    Politics is war conducted by other means. – David J. Horowitz, The Art of Political War, 2000

    Frederick the Great, who reigned as king of Prussia (1740-1786), famously remarked that “Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments.” Today, over two centuries later, it would appear this relationship has been entirely reversed, and that “Arms without diplomacy is like music without instruments.”

    Arms without diplomacy

    In a recent opinion piece (Jerusalem Post, January 7) titled “Why Jews are so bad at PR,” Shmuley Boteach asks, with evident exasperation, “What good is having Apache helicopter gunships, or Merkava tanks, to defend your citizens against attack if you can’t even use them because the world thinks you’re always the aggressor?”

    The last several weeks have seen a spate of similar articles, berating the dismal and dysfunctional performance of Israel’s public diplomacy – reflecting, one hopes, growing public discontent at the deplorable state of affairs that has prevailed in this sphere for decades.

    Regrettably, it appears that these – richly deserved – rebukes have been largely limited to the nation’s English-language press. A Google search I conducted on major Hebrew media outlets showed that far less attention seems to be allotted to discussion and analysis of this critically important component of Israel’s strategic capabilities – revealing what appears to be an alarming lack of awareness of, and/or interest in, the topic among the Hebrew-reading public.

    Difficult to overstate the gravity

    It is difficult to overstate the gravity of Israel’s public diplomacy debacle, and to grasp the ongoing official disregard of the strategic dangers that its continued neglect is creating.

    Indeed, well over half a decade ago, in an article called “Public diplomacy: the missing component in Israel’s foreign policy,” published in a well-known scholarly journal, Prof. Eytan Gilboa issued the following ominous warning: “The lack of an adequate PD [public diplomacy] program has significantly affected Israel’s strategic outlook and freedom of action…. Any further neglect of PD would not only restrict Israel’s strategic options, it would be detrimental to its ability to survive in an increasingly intolerant and hostile world.”

    While nearly all the recently published critiques did a good job in their diagnosis of the malaise, I fear the prescriptions many of them suggested for its remedy are hopelessly inadequate, and reflect a serious underestimation of the depth and the scale of the problem.

    Right diagnosis, wrong prescription

    For example, one ardent and articulate advocate for Israel, who for many years has been a sterling stalwart in defending the country against unfounded defamatory attacks at home and abroad, suggested measures with which many might concur. He prescribes that “Israel must appoint a DIPLOMAT, rather than a politician as our next foreign minister,” and that “Israel needs a friendly, cooperative, rapid response PR team that will PROMPTLY supply helpful CREDIBLE information whenever needed about government, IDF or police actions that are liable to be criticized in the international media.”

    I would prefer not to get ensnared in a discussion as to whether it is practicable in the current or foreseeable future political realities to expect that a plum political position such as foreign minister could be conferred on a non-political figure; or whether the problem with information provided by Israel is its promptness and credibility rather than the editorial prejudices of the major media channels, both domestic and foreign.

    So while I might concede that such suggestions should not be dismissed out of hand as unfeasible or irrelevant, I have no doubt that even if implemented, they would have little more than marginal impact.

    There is no quick fix for this prickly predicament. The abysmal situation we find ourselves in took years to develop.

    It is the result of decades of gross negligence by both the political and the professional echelons responsible for the formulation and execution of the nation’s diplomatic strategy. It will take years to redress, and is far more a problem of overall structure, than of specific personalities.

    System-wide failure

    As such, it cannot be rectified by the appointment of this or that individual to the post of foreign minister and/or information minister – to be replaced after a maximum of a four-year tenure. It cannot be resolved merely by putting a more polished ex-post spin on events, or a more articulate after-the-fact presentation of recent incidents.

    For what we are facing is nothing less than a deeply troubling system-wide failure of the entire complex of diplomatic “machinery,” allegedly designated to advance Israel’s cause abroad.

    In his “How not to win friends and influence people” (Jerusalem Post, January 11), Barry Shaw fires off this caustic – but largely justified – condemnation of Israeli officialdom: “It is the total dereliction of duty, public diplomacy duty, at the heart of the decision-making process. The foreign office, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Government Spokesman’s Office, or the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs – all have proven themselves to be incapable of addressing the urgent need to present Israel’s position on leading issues, particularly the Palestinian issue.”

    Regrettably, I find it difficult to dispute this withering accusation.

    Comprehensive intellectual effort required

    Indeed, combating the growing delegitimization of Israel requires a far greater, wide-ranging and concerted intellectual effort – much of which the government can only help facilitate but not execute, certainly not on its own.

    A radical restructuring and revamping of Israeli diplomatic strategy, infrastructure and doctrine is called for. The requirements for such a metamorphosis go well beyond the individual appointment of personnel, or the efficiency of transmission of information to an innately antipathetic press.

    The full elaboration of what is required – and the rationale as to why it is required – extend beyond the limits of a single opinion column. Accordingly, I will confine myself to a skeletal tour d’horizon of the principle parameters that such an enterprise must comprise.

    Its underlying foundation must be a fundamental change in the perception of the role of public diplomacy in the strategic arsenal of the nation. As I have written in several columns, the function of diplomacy – particularly public diplomacy – is akin to the traditional function of the air force. For just as the classic role of the air force is to provide ground forces the necessary freedom of action to attain their objectives, so the classic role of diplomacy is to provide national policy- makers the freedom of action they require to attain the objectives of that policy.

    Intellectual warriors, not slicker diplomats

    Adoption of this perception of diplomacy as an operational arm of national strategy has inevitable operational consequences.

    The first of these involves the realization that the effective conduct of strategic diplomacy cannot be left to official diplomats, for as soon will become clear, it requires activities which state representatives, bound by the formalities of protocol and the niceties of diplomatic etiquette, are unlikely to be able to undertake.

    These are tasks that must be assumed by nongovernmental organizations, comprised of resolute and focused civil society elites, dedicated to the defense of their country and with the appropriate attributes and resources to engage its adversaries in intellectual combat, unfettered by the constraints that limit the freedom of response (and initiative) of the official organs of state.

    It is these “intellectual warriors” who must comprise the front-line shock troops in the ongoing battle against Israel’s international delegitimization.

    Intellectual warriors (cont.)

    The second consequence relates to resources.

    Winning a war requires a war chest. No matter how well formulated the message, and how intense the motivation of its conveyors, the impact will be limited to the size and range of the “megaphone” that civil society intellectual warriors have at their disposal. This clearly requires funding. Israel has been incredibly miserly in allotting resources for its public diplomacy efforts and for the fight against its delegitimization.

    As I have pointed out in previous columns, this frugality is not due to a lack of resources. Were Israel to apportion a fraction of 1 percent of its GDP (around a quarter of a trillion dollars), for this purpose, this would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars that could be channeled to engage, inform and educate large swathes of the public who have fallen prey to its detractors’ defamatory deception. They could be channeled to help confront, curtail and counteract the unwarranted delegitimization of the Jewish state and the Zionist ideal.

    Inexplicably, while foreign governments finance a myriad of NGOs dedicated to besmirching Israel’s reputation, the government of Israel extends virtually no support to NGOs seeking to defend it.

    As this parsimony is unlikely to disappear in the near future, and until the government bureaucracy can be coaxed/convinced into amending its current self-obstructive budgetary priorities, Israel’s intellectual warriors will have to seek funding from like-minded private benefactors, who have the necessary insight – and foresight – to grasp the urgent imperatives of the hour.

    Question of context

    For the intellectual warrior, the primary challenge is not to change the way in which current events are reported but rather to change the context in which that reportage is conducted.

    For a given incident will be interpreted entirely differently, depending on the context in which it is perceived. Thus, no matter what events are to be reported, it matters greatly whether Israel is portrayed as a beleaguered democracy, a bastion of civil liberties and democratic governance, valiantly defending itself against a sea of tyranny and theocracy, or as an avaricious expansionist rogue state, coveting the lands of others and trampling the rights of the defenseless.

    Clearly, any civilian casualties resulting from IDF operations would be judged very differently, depending on which of these contexts apply: Regrettable but understandable “collateral damage,” in the former; unacceptable victims of colonial aggression, in the latter.

    Changing the context in which Israel is perceived is a task of mammoth proportions – particularly in light of the decades of neglect that have passed since the dramatic transformation from its pre- 1967 status of a David-like underdog to its post-1967 status of a Goliath-like oppressor. It is a task that cannot be left to the country’s official diplomatic corps.

    The ‘poodle-rottweiler’ syndrome

    For international understanding of Israeli policy and IDF actions, Israel must portray its adversaries – particularly the Palestinians – as they really are.

    Unless this is done, such policy and action may well appear excessive.

    To employ a rather stark metaphor – and without wishing to impute canine qualities to humans of any kind, if one insists that one’s antagonists are “cuddly poodles” rather than “vicious rottweilers,” one cannot expect others to understand why “rottweiler” action is appropriate.

    Clearly, however, Israeli diplomats cannot portray Palestinian society in its true light: as a cruel, brutal society where women are suppressed, gays are oppressed and political dissidents are repressed; a society where journalists are harassed, press freedom is trampled, political opponents are lynched, honor killings of women by their male relatives are endorsed or at least condoned, and homosexuals are hounded.

    That must be left to civil society intellectual warriors.

    Going for the jugular

    Only civil society intellectual warriors can identify and articulate the raw truth as to the true origins of the delegitimization of Israel. Only they can “go for the jugular” and underscore the inconvenient fact that if the Palestinian narrative which portrays the Palestinians as an authentic national entity is acknowledged as legitimate, then all the aspirations, such as achieving Palestinians statehood, that arise from that narrative are legitimate. Accordingly, any policy that precludes the achievement of those aspirations will be perceived as illegitimate.

    But – in the absence of wildly optimistic, and hence irresponsibly unrealistic, “best-case” assumptions – any policy that is designed to secure Israel’s minimal security requirements, will preclude the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Consequently, any endeavor to realistically provide Israel with minimal security will be perceived as illegitimate.

    The inevitable conclusion must therefore be that for Israel to secure conditions that adequately address its minimal security requirements, the Palestinian narrative, and the aspirations that flow from it, must be delegitimized.

    This is something that only civil society elites can express and convey.

    Israel’s greatest strategic challenge

    Israel’s greatest strategic challenge, its gravest strategic failure and its grimmest strategic danger is the conduct – or rather misconduct – of its public diplomacy.

    Unless new battalions of intellectual warriors are formed and mobilized, the challenge will go unanswered, the failure will remain unaddressed, and the danger will continue to intensify.

    Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

  • Posted by Ted Belman @ 3:15 am | 26 Comments »

    26 Comments to Into the Fray: Intellectual warriors, not slicker diplomats

    1. the phoenix says:

      good to see you back ted!

    2. yamit82 says:

      Are you OK Ted? we have been concerned by your absence.

    3. the phoenix says:

      From the article:

      Going for the jugular


    4. Andrew says:

      I don’t know if this story is true or not. And I am probably not accurately conveying the story, but here goes.

      Supposedly George Bernard Shaw (obviously very drunk) once said to a society lady, will you sleep with me for a million pounds? She said yes. He then said how about for ten pounds? She said she was outraged and insulted. He then said, we have determined you are a whore. Now we are just haggling over the price.

      When Bibi says he believes in a “two-state solution”, the rest is just haggling over the price.

    5. Canadian Otter says:

      WELCOME BACK, TED! :-)

    6. Ted Belman says:

      A month ago I had my heart valve replaced. Subsequently it was decided that I needed a pacemaker. So this week I was away for two days to undergo this procedure.

      Thanks everyone for your concern and well wishes.

    7. the phoenix says:

      @ Andrew:

      When Bibi says he believes in a “two-state solution”, the rest is just haggling over the price.

      Excellent point Andrew!
      When one has a deep belief and true conviction, then that one CANNOT BE BOUGHT!

    8. Bernard Ross says:

      Welcome back Ted.

      Prof. Eytan Gilboa issued the following ominous warning: “The lack of an adequate PD [public diplomacy] program has significantly affected Israel’s strategic outlook and freedom of action…. Any further neglect of PD would not only restrict Israel’s strategic options, it would be detrimental to its ability to survive in an increasingly intolerant and hostile world.”……Its underlying foundation must be a fundamental change in the perception of the role of public diplomacy in the strategic arsenal of the nation.

      It is odd that a people known for intellectual capabilities are so deficient in bringing them to bear in the current circumstances. I see Lawfare as part of the same battle strategy. The cost to Israel in neglecting these areas is enormous in relation to the cost of achieving a successful strategy. Furthermore, the unnecessary costs in human life caused by ignoring and neglecting these strategies should be self evident.

    9. Bernard Ross says:

      Andrew Said:

      When Bibi says he believes in a “two-state solution”, the rest is just haggling over the price

      Agreed. It might have been cheaper for successive Israeli govts. to have mentioned Jewish settlement rights over the last few decades.

    10. Laura says:

      That Israel has the moral highground over her enemies is self-evident. This should be clearer than ever since the west now finds itself in a war with islam. Those who see Israel as the villain it is because they choose to see it that way on account of their own prejudice. Israel’s PR problem is the result of the decline of western civilization and its own moral relativism.

    11. Dean says:

      There is arrogance, a sha shtil mentality and reality avoidance in diaspora and Israeli efforts to counter hate. Israel relies on North American mainstream Jewish groups to defend Israel but defending Israel is usually not an important part of their mandate and they all loathe going on the attack/offensive or supporting groups and individuals who do see the need to attack and discredit the enemies.

      This mindset comes from the fear of offending the greater community but the net effect is that we look weak and beaten, unable to even make the case against the most violent and repressive/regressive religion responsible for 99% of the terrorism in the world today.

      Making the case for Israel is fine but making the case against radical Islam and leftism is more important. If Israel cannot manage to identify and back those in the Jewish and Christian communities who are willing to carry out hard-hitting campaigns, then they ought to re-examine their objectives.

      As stated in the article, we do not need any more diplomats steeped in moral equivalence, niceness and liberal-think, we need activists. The problem is that when one tries to be an effective activist, he/she is shot down not so much by the Islamists but by the liberal Jews who see any negativity as extremism and use such labels to discredit those who speak up for them – too bad they do not have the brains nor desire to speak up for themselves.

    12. Laura says:

      @ Laura:

      Israel’s PR problem is the result of the decline of western civilization and its own moral relativism.

      Just to make myself clear, I meant the west’s own moral relativism.

    13. Canadian Otter says:

      WHAT MAKES ANYONE THINK THIS ‘NEGLIGENCE’ IS UNINTENDED? – Please, connect the dots. And it’s not this govt only, but decades-long behavior by several political parties.
      – Refusal to assert Israel’s legal rights to Judea and Samaria –
      – Govt funding of films and other art forms that denigrate Israel abroad.
      – Contemptuous and often brutal treatment of settlers, thereby degrading and intimidating Zionism and those who stand for it.
      – Enabling, for many years, national and foreign rioters to attack settlers and police on a weekly basis at the Bi’ilin and Na’alin points of the fence – giving the media opportunity to present “demonstrators barely armed with slingshots facing police in full riot gear.” Makes for great anti-Israel propaganda. Why aren’t the rioters arrested (orders are to disperse), the area marked as military zone, or some other measure that would stop this circus? Because it helps the Two States cause.
      – Refusing to listen to researcher Lee Kaplan when on several occasions he gave govt officials solid intelligence about terror connections of Gaza flotilla leadership. Hence the Marmara PR fiasco. And govt still fails to avail itself of methods for remotely disabling ships.
      – Allowing African infiltrators to cross the border till they reached almost 100,000, a staggering number for such a small country. And then it refuses to deport them or hand them over to UNHCR. There are no plans to deport them, whatsoever.
      – Refusal to stop widespread illegal Arab construction on both sides of the Green Line.
      And so on, and on, and on. You could say that politicians err once in a while. The above picture points to a concerted effort, a plan with a clear objective being manipulated by the elite. All that politicians have to do (even the ‘good politicians’) is follow instructions, one at the time.
      Question: What kind of subtle or direct influence is being exerted on authorities so that they’ll follow the elite’s plan?
      Question: why haven’t ordinary citizens organized in large numbers to effectively counteract this government ‘neglect’ of sovereignty, security and good PR?

    14. the phoenix says:

      @ Canadian Otter:

      Question: why haven’t ordinary citizens organized in large numbers to effectively counteract this government ‘neglect’ of sovereignty, security and good PR?

      THAT is the question.
      I see no frog JUMPING out of the scalding water.
      What I see, is the sad, pathetic frog being SLOWLY (but surely) boiled to death!
      A point in time will surely come, when a small group will decide that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
      this might come as a TOTAL surprise, since as of now….. There is no shrewd of evidence that such a ‘small group’ exists…
      To my thinking, were this to happen, it would (should?) spread like a forest fire,

    15. Dan says:

      Reasonable and sound arguments have never helped the Jews in history. Jew-hatred is a sickness that can only be treated by the Jewish threat of force. That is the only truth our would-be murderers will ever understand.

    16. Canadian Otter says:

      A few days ago I posted the very real exchange in Parliament between our Foreign Minister John Baird and the opposition regarding the Zombie threat to Canada – Watch video here –

      Now it’s a ‘serious’ column by David Frum on the National Post – Frum writes: “John Baird’s tough-guy rhetoric may win applause from the Conservative back bench. But the foreign minister’s inflammatory words dangerously oversimplify a complex situation. Worse, they shamefully betray Canada’s historic role as an honest broker between the living and undead communities. – The zombie movement has both a political and a military wing. While the military wing has been responsible for atrocities, which Canada correctly condemns, the political wing provides crucial social services to the zombie population. Canada must repudiate extremism on both sides of the conflict. – A final resolution will be reached only by negotiating a middle way: a way that acknowledges both the historic aspirations of the zombies to rip apart quite a lot of people, and also the legitimate security concerns of the living not to be slaughtered to the last man, woman and child.” –

    17. Honey Bee says:

      @ Ted Belman:

      I don’t need a pacemaker Ted, your the one who makes my heart beat faster. Glad to have you back

    18. yamit82 says:

      Honey Bee Said:

      I don’t need a pacemaker Ted, your the one who makes my heart beat faster. Glad to have you back

      Poor Cowboy???

    19. yamit82 says:

      @ Canadian Otter:

      Must be boring to live in a country with no existential threats and no ideological vision for the future. Just mundane concerns with mortgages job security,education for the kids, healthcare and material accumulation of stuff nobody really needs Oh, and Zombies too.

    20. yamit82 says:

      My comment to Otter in moderation :(

    21. the phoenix says:

      Dan Said:

      Reasonable and sound arguments have never helped the Jews in history. Jew-hatred is a sickness that can only be treated by the Jewish threat of force. That is the only truth our would-be murderers will ever understand.

      Dan, it sure does not get any more simple than that.
      The sad part is that Israel DOES have the might ! But if there is no inclination to ever use it, or even HINT that it might use it…. It is all for naught .
      I shouldn’t even be saying this….what would the goyim say?

    22. Canadian Otter says:

      @ the phoenix:
      One chance in 100 million, Phoenix?

      A point in time will surely come, when a small group will decide that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

      I remembered your reply when I read that the estimated chances of Earth being in a close call with a huge asteroid, and being hit by several serious looking meteorites on the same day were one in 100 million … and yet it happened.

      Anything is possible.

      Actually, there are several brave small groups challenging the government. REGAVIM is one. The problem is that they don’t coalesce into one big movement with real teeth. But their chances of doing so are much better than one in 100 million. I’m sure of that.

    23. Shmuel HaLevi says:

      The Ministry of FR of Israel posts tenured permanent staff dating back decades. The vast majority aligned with MAPAI-MAPAM’
      Moshe Sharett, 1948-1956 8 years. MAPAI
      Golda Meir, 1956-1966 10 years. MAPAI
      Abba Eban, 1966-1974 8 years. MAPAI
      Yigal Alon 1974-1977 3 years. MAPAI
      Moshe Dayan,1977-1979 2 years MAPAI The FM was controlled/formed by MAPAI-MAPAM for 31 years.
      Yitzhak Shamir 1980-1986 6 years LIKUD
      Shimon Peres 1986-1988 2 years MAPAI
      Moshe Arens 1988-1990 2 years LIKUD
      David Levi 1990-1992 2 years LIKUD
      Shimon Peres 1992-1995 3 years MAPAI
      Ehud Barak 1995-1996 1 year MAPAI
      David Levi 1996-1998 2 years LIKUD
      Ariel Sharon 1998-1999 1 year LIKUD
      David Levi 1999-2000 1 year LIKUD
      S. Ben Ami 2000-2001 1 year MAPAM
      Shimon Peres 2001-2002 1 year MAPAI
      B. Netanyahu 2002-2003 3 momths LIKUD
      Silvan Shalom 2003-2006 3 years LIKUD
      T. Livni 2006-2009 3 years kadima
      A. Lieberman 2009-2013 3 years Israel Beitenu

      The Foreign Ministry has been solidly cntrolled by the extreme left for 41 years. Likud some 17 years and Beitenu for 3 years. It is virtually owned structurally by the Peresite forces.
      To effect any true changes the whole system must be changed. Nothing else will do.

    24. Canadian Otter says:

      @ yamit82:

      Canada’s National Post screaming headline from Israel:

      After $2,700 contract revealed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu freezes his ice cream budget

      You were saying, Yamit…..????


      PS: Get well soon
      PPS: Excessive sugar consumption in the Netanyahu household may be the cause of pointless hyperactivity and mental confusion.
      PPPS: You forgot the threat to Canada from frequent visits by UFOs

    25. Honey Bee says:

      @ Canadian Otter:

      I am sure the Canadians greeted the space travelers with the greatest of courtesy, MAPLE LEAF FOREVER.

    26. Honey Bee says:

      @ yamit82

      “Who want a horse anybody can ride” , I aways go home with the boy who brung me. Great day at the flea market, some played Mesican tune giving me a chance to dance.

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