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December 09, 1988 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A

1,V l■

T.

I COMMENT I

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42

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9, 1988

hile Israel has
proven itself unsur-
passed on the bat-
tlefield, it has failed
miserably in public relations
and communications and, as
a result, is paying a dear price
in the political world.
Israel and the Jewish com-
munity have received serious
setbacks in the last few
weeks. First came the an-
nouncement from Algiers
that the -PLO has "recogniz-
ed" Israel. All of the media
jumped on the story, few mak-
ing the fine distinctions so
important when it comes to
the issue or recognition and
secure borders.
Only after the fact did
Israeli spokesmen and Jewish
leaders try — somewhat
belatedly — attempt to clarify
the issues involved. The PLO
message seeped into the
public consciousness and lit-
tle could be done to turn the
public opinion tide.
Israel should have prepared
for this eventuality before and
during the Algiers con-
ference. It could have
challenged the PLO in press
conferences and mass com-
munications to take specific
actions, putting the entire
conference on the defensive.
It is much easier — indeed
it is vital — to dictate the
public agenda than respond
to it. Sophisticated political
communications requires
what on the battlefield are
called "preemptive" strikes,
but Israel, for whatever
reasons, has failed to take
such communications
initiatives.
Then came the action by
the United States, particular-
ly Secretary of State George
Shultz, denying PLO leader
Yassir Arafat al visa to ad-
dress the United Nations in
New York.
Shultz is a decent man and
took the action because of his
abhorrence for terrorism. He
should receive plaudits for his
principles; his heart is in the
right place, if not his politics.
But, having been ruled by
his heart rather than head,
Shultz made the PLO leader
a martyr and positioned
Israel and the United States
as opponents to peace. How
much better it would have
been from a strategic political
perspective to let Arafat

Berl Falbaum is a Detroit
area public relations
executive.

speak. He would have helped
pinpoint the PLO's
evasiveness in recognizing
Israel and failure to assure
Israel's security.
As William F. Buckley, Jr.,
the conservative columnist
wrote: ". . . our refusal to let
him (Arafat) in, among other
things, denies us the oppor-
tunity to put pressure on him
to clean up the murky resolu-
tion by which he seeks to
create a Palestinian state and
leave ambiguous the
legitimate borders of Israel."
The U.S. action did nothing
but cement Arafat's position
as a so-called "moderate"

The PLO has lost
on the battlefields
but is winning the
public relations
war.

leader and heightened in-
terest in what he will say in
Geneva when the U.N. ses-
sion is moved to Switzerland.
And we can all be assured
that Arafat will play the mar-
tyr role for what it's worth —
as any adept politician would.
Israel could have taken the
lead and articulated a
political position along these
lines: "Israel opposes in prin-
ciple Arafat's appearance at
the U.N. But let him come
and specifically recognize
Israel, specifically renounce
terrorism and pledge the
security of Israel's borders."
If Israel had taken such a
political stance, it is highly
unlikely Shultz would have
acted unilaterally and the
pressure would have been on
the PLO.
All this combined with the
continued hard, volatile and
unnecessary strident
language about the intifada
of Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir and Defense Minister
Yitzhak Rabin is hurting
Israel.
The major point is, Israel is
losing the public relations
war, and it is a war.
Those who question the
value of public relations and
sophisticated communica-
tions might remember that
politicians, including world
leaders, are moved by public
opinion — not necessarily
principles and issues — and
good, effective PR influences
world opinion.
It is time for Israel to put its
good minds to work and ap-
propriate the required
resources to develop com-
prehensive communication
programs.

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