Nov 4, 2009 1:54 pm


Golda Meir famously said:"It does not matter what the world says, it matter what the Jews do." A recent poll reveals that the majority of Israel's Jewish citizens believe that when it comes to their relationship with the Arab world, the opposite is true. Speaking truth to power i.e.,"the international community," as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did at the UN, is the only thing that would make a difference. One thing is clear, the majority of Israelis believe they are right and are in no mood to apologize or appease. Indeed, Israel's Palestinian problem would not be solved by ending settlements or creating a Palestinian state. Instead, it may be improved by convincing the legal world to distinguish between conventional war and the war on terror.

Here are the results of a recent poll taken by Israel's premier pollster, Dr. Mina Zemach, which she was kind enough to share with me. Note the highlighted results of the last question:

Do you believe it is possible to explain to the non-Muslim world that Israel conquered Judea and Samaria in 1967 and it still there or it is not possible?

Yes - 65.1% No- 32.9% Don't know - 1.9%

Is it possible or impossible to Explain and justify the existence of Jewish settlement in the midst of the Palestinian population?
Yes - 54.4% No - 37.9% Don't know - 7.7%

Is it possible to explain and justify in the non-Muslim world the Gaza operation?
Yes - 85.6% No - 12.2% Don't know - 2.3%

Do you think Israel should or should not have cooperated with the Goldstone Report?
Yes - 32.4% No - 39% Don't know - 28.6%

Minister Yaakov Hertzog suggested creating a committee of Israeli and foreign legal experts to convince the Western world that the rules of war are inapplicable to Israel's war on terror. Do you support or oppose the creation of such a committee?
Yes - 72.5% No - 22.7% Don't know - 4.8%

It is possible or impossible to convince the world that rules of war are not applicable to war on terror?
Yes - 71.3% No- 25.1% Don't know - 3.7%

Should or shouldn't Israel appoint a special Hasbara (explanation) minister?
Yes - 54.7% No - 40.9 Don't know - 4.5%

Did Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the UN last week improve Israel's position in the world or not?
Yes - 50.3% No - 30.1% Don't know - 19.6%

Would the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria improve Israel's ability to explain itself to the world or not?
Yes - 40.6% No - 51.5% Don't know - 7.9%

The poll was taken on Oct. 1. It is based on a sample of 485 adults and has a 4.8% margin of error.

Unfortunately, Dr. Liel, if the former director general of the Israeli foreign ministry is to be believed, the Israeli foreign ministry, not to mention the media, does not share this view. In a little watched C-span type program, Liel said that the Israeli positions cannot be explained and that since Hasbara is almost the sole function the Israeli foreign ministry, it is going to oppose the creation of an special Israeli Hasbara ministry.

I cannot but wonder how persons, who do not believe that their job is doable, can do a good job? The American State Department certainly did not do a credible job during the last Bush administration when it found itself similarly alienated.

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More Comments:

Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 11/2/2009

Changing the top would not suffice. I believe it is a cultural problem and it infects most foreign ministries.

Elliott Aron Green - 11/2/2009

I believe that a great deal could be done to explain and justify Israel's positions to the world. One reason for not doing that is traditional Labor party policy that such explanation was not needed. Shimon Peres as foreign minister [1986-88] went to the extreme of disbanding the foreign ministry's dept of hasbara, the Israel Information Center or Office [I think that was the name].

Peres also made the absurd statement that hasbarah was not important since if you had a good policy, then hasbara would not be needed, and if your policy was not good, good hasbarah would not help.

This claim disregards the anti-Israel agitprop in the West and the Arab world which has had much success. Liel may be an employe at the Peres peace center of the Rabin peace center, so such views would come naturally to him. Be that as it may, Liel believes in the old Peres foolishness. I remember years ago that Laborites used to make fun of Zionist-Revisionists [Herut types] for being too much involved with talking and not enough with doing.

I think that hasbarah ought to be part of the foreign ministry but people like Liel and Nahman Shai ought to be kept out and new, competent people brought in to do the job.