Power struggles often bring negative repercussions in any industry – whether political or corporate. For Israel and its PR engine, power struggles have continually hindered the country’s ability to harness good public relations to overcome an increasingly poor image in the media. This poor image has also taken root in trade unions, the general public, and even academic circles.Israel’s struggles with branding worsened with the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against the country. This international campaign pushes for strong political and economic pressures. Though Israel continues to stand its ground politically, its public image is being harmed along the way.
One reason for this failure is a lack of cohesive strategy to combat the negative PR the country faces. The relatively new government PR engine, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, and Public Relations, still has no operational plan or structured PR campaigns in place to achieve its goals. Many different ministries also still assist with various aspects of PR but do not share information with the other ministries about their goals, plans, and activities.
No Proper Funding
The fight for resources also stands in the way of the achievement of PR goals. The Ministry of Strategic Affairs and PR’s primary contender is the Foreign Ministry. Both ministries fall under the Prime Minister’s Office, but he has yet to settle resource disputes between the two bodies. Though the Foreign Ministry also faces budget shortages, its longstanding place in the government provides it with the resource advantage over the PR division.
Divided and Conquered
This struggle for resources and responsibilities among different ministries creates a divided government, scrambling to piece together a better image in the media. Yesh Atid leader Lapid said, “Israeli hasbara is spread out over five ministries, and none knows what the others are doing. It doesn’t have to be like that… We can win. Israel can be accepted and beloved, and its version of things can be heard. But we need to work on it. It’s possible.”
In spite of the Foreign Ministry’s clear advantage in obtaining resources, only eight percent of its budget goes to diplomatic activity. Most is spent on funding Israeli missions abroad. In 2015, the ministry spent only $33 million of its $423 million budget on hasbara (public diplomacy).
This no doubt affected the decision to close Israeli consulates and embassies around the world, which further restricts Israel’s ability to maintain positive diplomatic relations with other countries.
As Israel works to better its image in the media and abroad, it should first work to develop a better internal structure, and division of responsibilities. Better coordination should also take place to ensure every message sent out by various departments to serve various means. All form part of one cohesive PR campaign. Otherwise, Israel may never fully recover from the attacks of the BDS, and the accusation of war crimes heaped on it by the international public.