The Foreign Ministry struggled to “act properly” in the wake of the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, according to a report published by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.
“The Foreign Ministry is struggling to act properly in the realm of public relations due to the wide gap between what is required of it and the ministry’s limited abilities,” Lindenstrauss wrote in the report, adding that “Public relations have never been more important due to ever-growing media-related challenges.”
According to Lindenstrauss, the blame for the public relations gaffe falls squarely on Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The report pointed to severe failure especially in everything having to do with Arabic-language public relations – a matter for which the Foreign Ministry is responsible. “The the run-up to and in the wake of the flotilla incident, Israel did not use Arabic in its public relations,” Lindenstrauss wrote.
The report also indicated that the National Information Directorate (NID) formed as part of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, collapsed in the aftermath of Israel's raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, adding that the IDF's influence in the directorate was disproportional.
In the report, Lindenstrauss said that the NID could not perform during events of such magnitude as the flotilla, urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form an emergency plan to deal with the issue.
"The NID isn't prepared to function in full capacity sometimes needed for the first24 hours," the comptroller wrote, adding that the short-staffed directorate struggled to provide the expected response.
In another point, Lindenstrauss indicated that an inadequate division of labor between the NID and the IDF Spokesman's Office reflected badly on attempts to explain the Israeli side of the flotilla takeover.
"The IDF Spokesman's Office, which has a military function and calling," the comptroller said, "acted as the State of Israel's default spokesperson," adding that the army was forced to operate above and beyond its usual scope in order to "make up for the weakness" of other government agencies.
Lindenstrauss's report exposed that all of the photographs and footage Israel could have used to delineate its position following the takeover was not given to the proper civil bodies by the IDF in time. The report further stated that the delay stemmed from the “deliberations regarding IDF spokesmanship and public relations which are influenced by internal relations.” The result was that in the first hours during which “the incident permeated the consciousness of the world,” the Foreign Ministry did not have the proper material.
Lindenstrauss also criticized the fact that officers in uniform spoke to the press during the event. “The appearance of the IDF Spokesperson and his representatives in uniform while speaking to the media may cause the international community, which does not differentiate between state spokespeople and military ones, to think that the officers represent Israel in all matters, not only in military ones,” Lindenstrauss wrote. “This kind of situation does not match the national outlook of the State of Israel.”
The State Comptroller indicated that a “national public relations forum” was established before the flotilla, which would include representatives from all relevant bodies. However, the forum did not make a distinction between messages that were meant for external public relations and those meant for internal relations.
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