As owner of a PR Agency, I want to offer ten tips for Mitt Romney to observe during his Israel visit:
1. Bowing isn’t customary in the Middle East. The Obama bow to the Saudi King is not considered customary in Israel nor anywhere else in the Middle East. Shaking hands and being polite is all that is needed.
2. Just as anywhere else in the world, it is considered polite to pose for pictures, and you shouldn’t allow Prime Minister Netanyahu to wait for a scheduled dinner (Nor, heaven forbid walk out on him for a private meal with your wife).
3. While you will undoubtedly have many private meetings, don’t get caught on microphone speaking ill of the democratically elected leader of the Jewish state, nor lecture their leaders publicly. Simply show appreciation for America’s closest ally and cooperate as they undoubtedly will with you.
4. Calling for a return to the pre 1967 borders won’t go over well – it is dangerous for Israel, as nearly every mainstream American politician has acknowledged.
5. As your Israel fundraiser has gotten a lot of attention already, don’t make a bigger deal of it, fundraising is acceptable in politics worldwide and your biggest benefactor is a self-made billionaire, the world’s richest Jew. It’s admirable, and with wealthy Americans donating to you, hard-working Americans don’t think someone else “built their business” – they know they did it by themselves. Also, don’t let one of your top fundraisers say that Muslim anti-Semitism “stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” As you know, Muslim anti-Semitism in the Middle East predates 1967, and even 1948 — and in any case is the fault of the anti-Semites, not of the Jews.
6. It’s great that you have Americans traveling with you who are fond of, supportive of, and well-respected in Israel. Off-the record sessions with radical fringe extremists like The New Yorker’s David Remnick and Newsweek’s Peter Beinart will not go over well, as they advocate boycotts of the Jewish state. Not good - and naturally don’t admonish America when overseas, even if your opponent does.
7. When in Jerusalem, don’t say that Jews can’t build in all areas of Jerusalem as no other U.S. government (pre-Obama) had ever demanded and no Israeli government would ever accept. Listen, and learn – enjoy the beauty of the capital city of Israel and pray. In Jerusalem, Israel – practicing the religion of your choice is accepted and safe, and in this democratic nation, just like in America, people can live wherever they choose. That isn’t the case for Jews, Christians or Mormons in nearly any Arab country.
8. Vow not to grant your first interview, when elected, to an Arabic network. With regard to the Iranian nuclear program, anti-Western interests like Hamas and Hizbullah, the uprising in Syria and the rise of extremists in Turkey & Egypt, don’t blame the country which is allied against America’s common enemies. Israel is rooted in Western values and even with a “right-wing” Israeli government, as Zionist leader Zev Jabotinsky wrote in 1929, “The Jewish people – all of us, 100 percent want peace”. The same holds true today.
9. Just showing up is appreciated – don’t make any big policy statements, it’s not needed. The visuals of being in Israel are good. Obama has not visited Israel during his time in office (despite accepting an award in Saudi Arabia, giving a major speech in Cairo, and holding town hall meetings in Turkey). Israel is popular in the US among Jews, evangelical Christians and many others. The visuals of going to Israel are good – and appreciated.
10. Most importantly, take in the amazing country of Israel. Millions of people visit Israel from all over the world each year, and it is an amazing special, holy country - from history to religion, even sunny beaches. Israel has tremendous similarities to the United States – enjoy the rich and beautiful country. You will leave with an even stronger emotional connection.