Daily Israel Report

Israel Prepares PR for Gaza Offensive

Israel's civilian PR network holds first-of-its-kind drill in preparation for escalation of Gaza conflict.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 12/22/2008, 8:08 PM / Last Update: 12/23/2008, 8:08 AM

Israel News Photo

Israel's civilian Public Relations network held a first-of-its-kind drill on Monday. The drill, titled “Maya 2,” was meant to prepare government ministries and spokespeople for the possibility of an escalation in the conflict with Gaza.

Dozens of PR workers, IDF spokespeople, security and rescue agency representatives and representatives from Gaza Belt communities took part in the exercise. The goal was to improve coordination between the various bodies and the government, and to present a united front, organizers said.

Among other things, participants practiced responding to a situation in which Hamas used Arab civilians as a human shield. "We practiced how to act in such a situation... how information passes between different bodies in an efficient way, how we can help and how we can avoid automatically taking responsibility,” said spokesman Yarden Vatikai.

Israel has begun presenting its stance already, and spokesmen are presenting information on the ways in which terrorists deliberately attempt to blur the line between combatants and civilians in order to save themselves from Israeli counterterrorist attacks. Israeli spokesmen will also begin explaining that no country can tolerate daily rocket attacks on its civilians, and Israel must respond to rocket fire, Vatikai said.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni presented Israel's stance in a meeting with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Professor Gabriela Shalev, sent a similar message, filing a sharply-worded complaint against Gaza terrorists this week over attacks on Israeli civilians in the Gaza Belt region. Hamas is the sole party responsible for the escalation of hostilities in the Gaza area, and Israel has the right to defend its civilians from Hamas attacks according to the UN charter, she wrote.

During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israel's PR was largely seen as insufficient. Hizbullah accused Israel of killing mainly civilians, including many children, and its claims were often repeated by the international media without an Israeli response. Doctored pictures purporting to show Israeli war crimes were revealed as fakes by bloggers and online pundits and not Israeli diplomats.