Golan Residents Launch PR Offensive as Syria Talks Loom

Board of Golan communities seeks to train local residents as spokespersons, ahead of expected media interest.

The board of Golan communities is launching a public relations campaign in the wake of media reports of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's intention to resume peace talks with Syria.

A prospective peace deal with Syria is likely to include the evacuation of Golan settlements, to which Golan residents overwhelmingly oppose.

The board has recruited some 50 local residents and started training them as spokespersons, expecting a blitz of media interest in the region ahead of a potential evacuation.

"A person should learn how to put a message across concisely, in one or two sentences," Eli Malka, head of Golan Regional Council, said. "We must not miss this opportunity. The communities living here are the Golan's biggest asset, and we intend to capitalize on this asset."

The media training workshops resumed a few weeks ago after being suspended some seven years earlier when the Israel-Syria peace process was discontinued.

A board spokesperson said that "we don't expect them to regurgitate press releases they learned by heart. We want them to tell their own personal story, like one family who settled in the Golan after moving out of the Tel Aviv area. When the moment comes, we want them to be well prepared."

"Every mention of looming talks brings up masses of media," Malka said. "We want to utilize this phenomenon to bring our message across to the public, with fewer slogans, and a genuine effort to engage in dialogue."