Friday, July 29, 2011
This Picture Should Make Every Jews Skin Crawl - U.S. invests millions in effort to boost Obama's image in Israel
JERUSALEM — The United States has been pumping millions of dollars into Israel to help overcome the Jewish state's distrust of President Barack Obama.
A State Department report said the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv has been facing rising Israeli distrust in the Obama administration. The department's Office of the Inspector-General reported that the embassy was given nearly $7 million a year to influence public opinion in the Jewish state.
"A fragile Israeli coalition government leans toward the views of its members from the nationalist and religious right, creating a challenge for diplomats seeking to build support for U.S. policies," the inspector-general said.
The report, issued in March 2010, said U.S. ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, played a major role in revising the policy of the Jewish state. But the embassy has failed to change Israeli public opinion against Obama.
"One of the embassy's challenges is how to build support for U.S. policies in Israel at a time when peace talks are under way and little can be said about them publicly despite intense public interest," the report said. "It will be useful to the United States for the ambassador, the DCM [deputy chief of mission], and the embassy's public diplomacy section to continue developing outreach programs that explain and advocate fundamental U.S. positions to Israeli audiences who may be becoming more distant from the United States than in the past."
The inspector-general team recommended that the embassy expand contacts with unidentified Israeli "mid-level politicians." Another recommendation was that the embassy increase reporting on "domestic factors that affect the policies and stability of Israel's coalition government."
The report said the embassy was managing a $6.8 million public affairs program to garner support for Washington's policy in the Middle East. The program included public appearances by the ambassador as well as exchange programs, grants and cultural events.
But the U.S. campaign has been hampered by a suspicious Israeli public and media. The report suggested that the Israeli media were exacerbating tension between Jerusalem and Washington.
"Much of the Israeli public is suspicious of U.S. efforts to promote negotiations aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state," the report said. "The lively and fractious press often misinterprets American policies."
As a result, the inspector-general recommended that the embassy expand non-political programs, particularly in the area of culture. The embassy was also urged to brief Israeli think tanks on U.S. policy, particularly the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank by 2013.
"The embassy understands that, in some difficult political environments, cultural programs can be an effective way to communicate American values to wide audiences," the report said. "The OIG team recommended informally that the embassy use the new structure in PAS, as recommended earlier, to increase its communications about U.S. policies and values and to rebuild contacts with opinion leaders and influential think tanks."