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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 at 10:53AM :

In Reply to: Israeli Communications Priorities 2003 posted by Sadie from ? ( on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 at 10:53AM :


"We all know the importance of bringing genuine democracy and human rights to all nations and to uproot the ideology of terrorism. That is what we have tried to do, and we will keep on trying."

We have tested about 75-minutes of new language in Chicago and Los Angeles. Much of it was ineffective ... or worse. However, we did uncover some messages that do move opinion elites from neutral to positive. Of all the language that deals with the Palestinians directly, here's what works the best:


Advocates of Israel will do well if they adopt the language that follows:

"The Palestinians deserve better leadership and they deserve a better society-with functioning institutions, democracy, and the rule of law."

"We are hoping to find a Palestinian leadership that really does reflect the best interest for the Palestinian people."

"As a matter of principle, Israel will sit down, negotiate and compromise with those that wish all the peoples of the Middle East to live together in peaceful coexistence. Egypt made peace with Israel. Jordan made peace with Israel. And both agreements still live on today."

"We know what it is to live our lives with the daily threat of terrorism. We know what it's like to send our children off to school one day and bury them the next. For us, terrorism isn't something we read about in the newspaper. It's something we see with our own eyes far too often."

"We don't want to sign a meaningless agreement that isn't worth the paper it is printed on. We want something real. If there is to be a just, fair and lasting peace, we need a partner who rejects violence and who values life more than death."

"As a matter of principle, the world should not force Israel to concede to those who publicly deny our right to exist or call for our annihilation."

"Right now, today, there are still terrorist groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs that the Palestinian Authority has either been unable or unwilling to curb-and Israelis continue to die because of it."

"Just as the American government pledges to secure for you life, liberty, and the chance to pursue happiness, so must Israel's government guarantee that we will be secure and free."


"My earnest hope is that with regime change in Iraq, democracy may finally take firm root in the Middle East. If the Palestinian people and the people of other Middle Eastern nations are able to see the brilliant example of a successful Arabic democracy, I am confident the tide will turn.

Obviously it is wrong to assume that overwhelming American support for regime change in Iraq is fully transferable to changing the Palestinian leadership. Americans view them as separate issues - at least right now. That being said, your support for the American efforts to liberate the people of Iraq can and should be tied to our mutual interest in guaranteeing freedom for the Palestinian people.

Americans want democracy to flourish in the Middle East. There is genuine hope that the Iraqi people will establish a representative government with genuine freedoms. In that vein, remind people that the Iraqi people need not look any further than their Israeli neighbors for an example of such a government.

Democracy loves company. So far, one of Israel's most effective messages has been that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It's time to take that message one step further. Emphatically state that while you are proud of Israel's democracy, you would much rather be the FIRST democracy in the Middle East than the ONLY democracy in the Middle East. Consider the following communication ladder that draws the attention first to Iraq and only then to the Palestinians.

(1) Democracy matters. Never in the history of the world has a democratic government engaged in war with another democracy.

(2) Democracy in Iraq matters. Iraq's transition to democracy is an essential first step towards a stable Middle East.

(3) Democracy can bring peace. True regional peace will come only when governments truly represent the interests of their people and guarantee their freedom and security.

(4) It's time for true democracy for the Palestinian people. They deserve no less.

This may seem simplistic but the message works when delivered this way and in this order. Americans sincerely hope that Iraq - a former adversary - can become a partner in peace once a representative government is installed. Insofar as they yearn for freedom and deserve representative leadership, the Palestinian people are no different. This is exactly what Israel has asked of the Palestinian Authority for so long: to establish a legitimate government that will become a partner in peace.


(1) We hope that we can once again achieve peace with an Arab neighbor.

(2) We hope that terror will no longer be the only thing that separates Palestinians from having their own state and Israelis from living in peace.

(3) We hope that the Palestinian people will no longer languish under a leadership that refuses to be a partner for peace.

(4) We hope that we can negotiate a fair agreement with a democratic government that is committed to the rule of law.

As zealous as Americans are about their own democracy, they quite often have to be reminded why they defend it so fiercely. This reminder becomes your obligation when associating Israel's democratic values with those of America.

Using the word "democracy" without giving examples of what makes this system of government so essential is like saying you want "peace" without giving evidence that you've made honest strides toward achieving it. Americans want proof that you know what these nice-sounding words mean.

When linking our common bond of democracy, use specific examples of why we hope that more nations establish the freedoms democracy guarantees.

* Women are treated as equals

* The press operates freely

* All religions are respected

* The people chose who represents them in free elections

* Democracies do not make war on each other

Finally, make the argument that if these freedoms are so dear to Israelis and Americans, they are just as dearly missed by the Palestinian people. All people yearn to live free, and their current leadership denies them that right.


[Author's note: We include this section because the President's speech did so well in both Chicago and Los Angeles and because this topic will be at the core of Jewish and Israeli communication efforts in the coming months. We warn readers that a great deal of additional research is needed to offer a guarantee that the words and messages included here are the best available.]

As the post-war dust settles over the Iraqi desert, the focus has already begun to shift to the Israel-Palestinian peace process and President Bush's so-called "roadmap" to peace. The good news is that the American people firmly believe that if the Palestinians want to demonstrate sincere commitment to peace, they must abide by the tenants of the President's soon-to-be-released roadmap. The not-as-good news is that they expect exactly same from Israel and they demand it immediately.

In both Chicago and Los Angeles, and among virtually all respondents regardless of political party, Americans responded quite favorably to the language from President Bush for two reasons: "a balanced approach" and "shared responsibilities." Keep those terms in mind and use them whenever possible.


"I see a day when two states, Israel and Palestine, will live side by side in peace and security. I call upon all parties in the Middle East to abandon old hatreds and to meet their responsibilities for peace

The Palestinian state must be a reformed and peaceful and democratic state that abandons forever the use of terror. The government of Israel, as the terror threat is removed and security improves, must take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable and credible Palestinian state, and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement...

We believe that all people in the Middle East -- Arab and Israeli alike -- deserve to live in dignity, under free and honest governments. We believe that people who live in freedom are more likely to reject bitterness, blind hatred and terror; and are far more likely to turn their energy toward reconciliation, reform and development."

- President George W. Bush


To some extent, your job as proponents of Israel has been easy. Under the Arafat regime, it's not difficult to convince the American public of the corruption of the current Palestinian leadership. While many sympathize with the plight of the Palestinian people, there is no love lost for Yassir Arafat. Arafat is a terrorist; they know that. Better still, he looks the part.

The emergence of Mahmoud Abbas as the new Palestinian Prime Minister comes exactly at the wrong time. His ascent to power seems legitimate. He is a fresh face, and a clean-shaven one at that. He speaks well and dresses in Western garb. He may even genuinely want peace.

Just as President Bush had begun to make headway in drawing attention on the need for a reformed Palestinian leadership, the Palestinians throw us this curveball. What will the world make of Abbas? Is he the new leadership for which Israel has pleaded for years? Or is he an Arafat in sheep's clothing?

Given the haze surrounding this new figure, it is imperative that you NOT immediately launch criticisms on Abbas. This is critical for three reasons:

(1) Overt negativity. If it turns out that Abbas legitimately wants peace and that he represents the true interests of the Palestinian people, then the attacks you launch today will turn the tide of public opinion against ISRAEL tomorrow. You will undermine all of your credibility as the willing partner for peace if you shoot down the first true peace partner the Palestinians have offered. (We don't expect this scenario but it is possible.)

(2) The unknown factor. Abbas is a relative unknown in the international community. Look at his emergence as if it were part of a political campaign. He is not a candidate to sit at the negotiating table until he proves his worthiness. While uncertainty makes your communication strategies complicated, it should not necessarily change your priorities. The more you talk about him, the more he is going to be talked about, which leads to the next point...

(3) Patiently Await a Peace Partner. Abbas may be a leader who wants peace, but it is incumbent upon him to prove that he is the willing and serious partner Israel needs to pursue peace together. Whether or not he has been elected or appointed to this position, he still needs to demonstrate tangibly that he wants peace. Your goal remains a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Once the Palestinians have shown their house is in order, you will be ready and willing to find an agreement. And if they don't, they, not Israel, will be blamed.

NOTE: This is not to say that Abbas should be given a free ride in the press. It is only to say that criticisms must be confined to what he does to thwart the peace process as a leader of the Palestinian people. Allow him the chance to succeed. A brief exercise in game theory may better illustrate this point. What happens if...

You immediately attack Abbas, and he turns out to be a genuine and effective partner in peace?

Israel loses credibility as the party that wants peace above all else. He gains popularity among an international community that already doubts your rhetoric and "heavy-handed" actions, and wins over those Americans who sympathize with the Palestinian people but support you because they distrusted previously corrupt Palestinian leadership. This is the worst result possible.

You immediately attack Abbas, and he turns out to be an Arafat in sheep's clothing?

What has Israel truly gained? You may have stripped his faux wool months before he would have done it himself, but you risked backlash. In the end, it would have been better off to publicly remain committed to peace while letting the Palestinian leadership implode on the public relations front - a strategy that has worked effectively thus far.

You wait on Abbas to define himself, and he turns out to be a genuine and effective partner in peace?

The roadmap is instituted and there is a peaceful resolution to decades of conflict by this time next year. This is the best result possible.

You wait on Abbas to define himself, and he turns out to be an Arafat in sheep's clothing?

Let him keep the faux wool; you'll reap the benefits of this communications gold mine. All your old messages of needing a genuine partner for peace will ring even truer, and the next time, the new leader cannot be justifiably appointed by Arafat.

So when people ask for opinions or reactions to Abbas, put it in terms of a "scouting report" with the following two facts:

(1) He was appointed to his current position by Arafat, which is suspect.

(2) He has denied the Holocaust, which is confounding at best and offensive at worst.

If he is an Arafat in Western clothing, it will not take long to identify him as such. The American people will know it by the actions he takes and the demands he makes. That is an incrimination that, if true, he will do to himself.

Is it a concern that he is a Holocaust denier? Absolutely. Will that fact convince Americans that he cannot represent the Palestinian people in an honest bid for peace? Hardly. Americans don't want to hear about the Holocaust anymore, and they particularly don't want to hear it from the Jewish community.

Nevertheless, you need more substance on Abbas before you can tell the American people you question his devotion to peace.

Americans believe that peace has to start somewhere other than Arafat. If Abbas is presented as that alternative, they quickly identify him as a symbol of "hope." His emergence as Prime Minister (a very Western, democratic-friendly title) is all Americans will need to believe that the peace process should be underway. They will expect you to follow suit and take a seat at the negotiating table. Finally, most believe that the United States can and should serve as an honest broker between these two parties. In their eyes, these are all the ingredients needed to begin the peace process.

It is essential that you use positive language when asked about Abbas. However, that does not mean you must compliment Abbas himself. While knocking him down now does little to help your long-term goals, building him up is also counterproductive. Therefore you must remain positive about the peace process and indifferent about Abbas until he defines his role. Above all else, reaffirm your position that first terrorism stops, and then negotiations begin.


"Yes, we hope that this potential change in leadership signals a new opportunity for peace in our region. Israel has long sought a partner who wants peace as dearly as we do. But Israel reaffirms that before any peace talks can begin, terror must end. We cannot negotiate with any leadership that allows its people to murder our civilians."

Mix this message in with one of compassion for the Palestinian people. Many Americans sympathize with their plight. So should you. Americans want to hear it. A statement that the Palestinian people deserve better should follow every recrimination of a Palestinian leader or terrorist.


"We know the Palestinian people deserve better. We want for them what we have in Israel: freedom to say what they want, believe what they want, and live in equality. They also should have the right to choose who speaks on their behalf. The Palestinian people deserve and want leaders who will work for peace and not for terrorism. We know that terrorism causes hardships for everyone involved. That is why we are committed to working for peace as soon as we have a willing partner."


An effective communication technique to continue to apply pressure to the Palestinian leadership without looking like you are ignoring Israel's responsibilities is to pose rhetorical questions. These questions will lead to only one answer, of course: peace cannot be achieved until real reforms are in place, and that the terror must stop first.


"How can the current Palestinian leadership honestly say it will pursue peace when the same leaders rejected an offer to create a Palestinian state two and a half years ago?"

"How can Yassir Arafat, whom Forbes Magazine says is worth more than three hundred million dollars, claim to be a leader who understands and represents an impoverished people when he has become rich at their expense?"

"Is it too much to ask that the Palestinian leadership not sponsor terrorists? Are we unreasonable to insist that they stop killing our innocent children before we jeopardize our security and make concessions for peace?"

"How can we make peace with a leader that does not believe in or allow free and honest elections?"

"Why do Palestinian schools have pictures of suicide bombers hanging up in the hallways of their schools or celebrate them as martyrs? Why do they name sports teams in the West Bank after suicide bombers? How can we make peace with the Palestinian people when their leaders instill a culture of terror against our people?"

"How can the Palestinian people end their impoverishment if their leaders continue to steal precious resources from them, which are then used to support terror?"

Why has Yassir Arafat been in power for so long, and yet made so little progress towards a peaceful resolution? If he were truly committed to peace, would he not have made a sincere effort to achieve it by now?

When will the Palestinian people themselves have a voice at the peace table?

The answer of every rhetorical question is the same: peace will come when the current Palestinian leadership is truly reformed and the terror tactics have ceased.


Presenting a fair evaluation of your past allows you to present a hopeful - and believable - vision of your future.

You have your work cut out for you. As you emerge from one delicate public relations situation - war with Iraq - you enter an even dicier situation - cooperating on "the road map" with an unknown counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas. Fortunately the former may provide you some breathing room and cover for the latter.

The essential conclusion is to remain focused on your communication priorities from this point forward. Terror ends first. A willing peace partner emerges second. The roadmap is executed last. And throughout it all, you exhibit humility and reaffirm that the Palestinian people deserve better.

This memo has identified language that effectively articulates why - and how - the Palestinian leadership must change. Critiquing the other side is the always the easiest part of public communication, but it is only half of effective language.

Opinion elites in America will not find repeated criticisms of the Palestinian leadership credible unless they are coupled with a similar onus on the Israeli government to accommodate for peace and acknowledge past transgressions. Assertions that Israel enjoys a blameless history are soundly rejected. This will not be received well by everyone but it is essential for your spokespeople to acknowledge it Israel has made some mistakes. Not only does this build credibility but it also allows the spokesperson to then explain and assert Israel's history of taking strides for peace.

Here is how this message is best developed:


(1) We know that the history of our conflict has been marked by frustration and mistrust by both Israelis and Palestinians, and Israel is willing to accept some of the blame for what has happened in the past

(2) However, throughout our history we have demonstrated that we value peace above all else. In our hope for peace we overcame differences and found agreement with our Arab neighbors Egypt and Jordan.

(3) We remain committed to peace. We offered the Palestinian people a state of their own that included over 97% of the West Bank. Their leadership rejected this proposal, showing once again that we do not have a partner for peace so long as the current Palestinian Authority remains the voice of the Palestinian people. It's time for a change - not just for us but for our Palestinian cousins as well.

1 The Luntz Research Companies & The Israel Project - April 2003

-- Sadie
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