I've been doing a lot of research on Israel's public diplomacy this month, and one thing that's struck me about it is its almost exclusively unidirectional nature. Neal Rosendorf makes a similar observation in a recent blog post, saying that "Israel needs to engage directly with the region's increasingly politically empowered peoples."
As Rosendorf notes, Israel's PD often targets U.S. and European audiences, a focus emphasized in a 2009 study on Israeli public diplomacy led by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Neaman Institute for National Policy Research. That same study tends to characterize Arab countries not as potential audiences but as creators of counter-messages.
This attitude underscores what I see as the chief drawback of Israel's public diplomacy, namely a heavy focus on message transmission (hasbara, or "explaining"), and an undervaluing of dialogue and collaboration. Rosendorf recommends engaging neighboring communities by promoting the development of Arab civil society and entrepreneurship, and by fostering "a widespread sense of regional interdependence, in which peace and prosperity are embraced by the great majority of citizens as a common good."
My classmates and I are drawing up our own recommendations for Israel's PD for a paper we're presenting next week, and we're still hashing out our ideas. But I think the lack of engagement stems from some underlying flaws in Israel's public diplomacy strategy, so in addition to Rosendorf's suggestions, our preliminary recommendations include the following:
- An articulated PD strategy to guide the government's actions and identify their targets, objectives and methods;
- Better coordination with private sector, civil society, academia and the media;
- More listening, research and dialogue;
- More relationship-building and collaboration;
- Policies, branding efforts and programs that reflect an awareness of the nation's PD strategy and attention to the information gathered through its listening and research efforts.