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By the end of this year, Israel will have a new international image, if the Foreign Ministry's rebranding project is successful. The British firm Acanchi, which the ministry hired to craft the new image, is now in the final stages of preparing to launch the new brand.

Fiona Gilmore, Acanchi's founder and a leading expert in rebranding countries and cities, toured the country last week and met with a wide range of Israelis - public figures, businessmen, academics and activists in various causes. Her mission is to create a brand disconnected from the Arab-Israeli conflict that focuses instead on Israel's scientific and cultural achievements.

The contract with Acanchi, which has helped to rebrand locales ranging from Lebanon to Northern Ireland, was signed about six weeks ago.

The rebranding idea was first proposed by the Israeli consulate in New York following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks there. The idea was that with the war on Islamic terror having suddenly gone global, Israel had an opportunity to escape its image as the main source of conflict with the Islamic world.

The project involved extensive research on Israel's international image, which was initially conducted by American experts hired and paid by international Jewish donors. In late 2005, however, the Foreign Ministry decided to make the effort an official ministry program. Since then, it has conducted a few pilot projects, such as inviting international journalists to tour Israel's wine industry.

"Our research shows that Israel's brand is essentially the conflict," said Ido Aharoni, the ministry official in charge of the program. "Even those who recognize that Israel is in the right are not attracted to it, because they see it as a supplier of bad news. The conclusion is that it is more important for Israel to be attractive than to be right."