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YNET: Artificial peace messages

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    Artificial peace messages Op-ed: Israeli desire for peace genuine, no need for clumsy advertising campaign funded by US Gerald Steinberg Published: YNET
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2010
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      Artificial peace messages

      Op-ed: Israeli desire for peace genuine, no need for clumsy advertising
      campaign funded by US

      Gerald Steinberg Published:  YNET 09.01.10, 00:14 / Israel Opinion

      After failing for 18 months to reverse the results of the 2009 Israeli
      election that brought a coalition headed by Benjamin Netanyahu to power, the
      Obama administration appeared to have stopped the clumsy efforts to
      manipulate Israeli democracy. But now the US Agency for International
      Development (USAID) is using a small opposition group to sell artificial
      peace messages to Israelis.

      This US-sponsored campaign is based on political advertisements with the
      message "that there is a (Palestinian) partner, that the problem is
      specifically with us." The texts are prepared by a group calling itself the
      "Geneva Initiative," and include video clips of Palestinian officials
      telling Israelis that there is a "window of opportunity" for reaching a
      peace agreement. USAID is also funding a parallel campaign aimed at a
      Palestinian audience.

      In December 2003, amidst the mass terror campaign that followed the Oslo
      "peace process," the Geneva Initiative began to promote its peace plan,
      using funding provided by Swiss politicians with no understanding of the
      Middle East. While most of the Israelis involved were opposition figures
      (including Yossi Beilin), the Palestinians were all linked to the Fatah
      organization, which was still controlled by Arafat.

      Dubbed "Oslo 2", the substance of the proposed agreement was also
      problematic, including very weak security provisions and a highly ambiguous
      framework for dealing with Palestinian refugee claims. As a result of the
      terms and the catastrophic experience with Oslo, this initiative had no
      traction. Nevertheless, the efforts to sell the framework have continued,
      but foreign government funding has not contributed to public acceptance.

      Similarly, the USAID campaign is particularly ill-advised, and is likely to
      lead to results which are the opposite of the intended objectives. The
      Israeli desire for peace after 62 years of conflict and rejectionism is
      genuine, and there is no need for a clumsy advertising campaign. After Sadat
      accepted Begin's invitation to visit Israel in November 1977, the US did not
      need staged video clips in order sell peace with Egypt to the Israeli

      Peace requires halt to demonization
      Instead, Israelis need to see an end to the Palestinian media incitement
      against Israel and the denial of the legitimacy of Jewish national
      self-determination. In addition, peace requires a halt to demonization
      through apartheid rhetoric, discriminatory boycotts, and calls for the UN
      and the International Criminal Court to open "war crimes" cases against
      Israeli officials. A few staged Palestinian pronouncements on peace made in
      English and funded by the US will not erase this behavior.

      Indeed, the impact of the USAID-funded advertising is likely to be
      counterproductive, and add to Israeli doubts and concerns. Polls show that
      the Israeli public is tired of the political manipulation that, until now,
      has been engineered primarily by European governments, under the guise of
      "civil society" and non-governmental organizations. Most of these efforts
      are highly guarded secrets, with no information on the processes by which a
      few marginal figures get large amounts of money to oppose the policies of
      the elected Israeli government. Such direct interference by one democratic
      country in the internal affairs of other democracies is also a blatant
      violation of international norms - but these rules are ignored when it comes
      to Israel.

      Following the negative European precedent, the USAID website makes no
      mention of this political campaign. The absence of full public disclosure or
      Congressional oversight for this unusual venture is also exceptional. To
      their credit, the leaders of the Geneva Initiative acknowledged that "The
      campaign is supported with the generous support of the American people
      through USAID."

      But in other ways, the behavior of the Geneva Initiative highlights the
      problem of secret foreign manipulation. They are funded via an organization
      known as H.L. Education for Peace, which is not registered with the Israeli
      government's Non-profit Registrar. In this way, the NGO evades reporting
      requirements regarding the large-scale support received from the European
      Union, Switzerland and other governments.

      The issues of political manipulation and secret funding processes used by
      foreign governments are at the core of the draft legislation recently
      approved by the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. The
      "Disclosure Requirements for (Groups) Supported by Foreign Government
      Funding" bill will require groups that receive such funding for a specific
      advertising campaign to acknowledge that support within the framework of the
      campaign. (The New Israel Fund and allied NGOs have wrongly denounced this
      clause as anti-democratic, a position that protects the partisan NGO
      recipients and leaves the Israeli public in the dark.)

      If there is a real prospect for a workable peace agreement, Israelis do not
      need to be persuaded by secret funding for false advertising - including the
      absurd claim that 62 years of war, terror and rejection is "our fault."
      These difficult decisions need to be based on detailed debate within the
      context of Israeli democracy. If Israelis are convinced that this time,
      there is a real basis for peace, and the benefits outweigh the risks, they
      will act accordingly. And if the incitement and terror continue, more NGO
      advertising will make no difference.

      Prof. Gerald Steinberg, Political Science, Bar Ilan University and
      president, NGO Monitor

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