As CEO of a PR firm, we often brief clients prior to major communications endeavors, and with President Obama embarking upon his much-awaited Israel trip which is sure to attract major attention, wanted to offer ten tips to ensure his trip to Israeli is a success:
1: It is not necessary to bow to elected officials in Israel. Your bow to the Saudi King is not necessary in the Jewish State. Shaking hands will do just fine for Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Peres and others.
2: The Israeli media is everywhere and indeed will not leave you alone. Don’t be surprised if there are open microphones and don’t get caught talking ill of Prime Minister as you did last year with Sarkozy.
3: Don’t walk out on PM Netanyahu for a private meal with your wife, nor make him wait for a scheduled dinner. Treat Israel like the long-time ally they are not the other Mid-East nations.
4: Don’t make the mistake of implying Israel was created because of the Holocaust, nor let someone on your staff say (as a fundraiser of yours during the campaign did) that Muslim anti-Semitism “stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” Muslim anti-Semitism in the Middle Eastpredates 1967, and even 1948.
5: While you have previously referred to Israel’s elected government as “extreme right”, in Israel it isn’t thought of in that manner. Your statement in 2008 that “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel” wont go over well. Likud is the largest party in Israel, and even given differences with the 2 other major coalition partners they’d also stand against these statements. The term “pro-Likud” is confusing as every single Israeli government has supported settlements, a peace process, strength against Iran and strength on national security. The coalition has recently been formed and it focuses primarily on domestic issues – and certainly isn’t perceived as extreme-right.
6: Don’t mention your “Jewish” friends as it won’t score your points. Your relationships with people likeThe New Yorker’s David Remnick and Newsweek’s Peter Beinart (as when you reportedly told Beinart to “hang in there”) wont help. Those who support boycotting Israel – even if they are Jewish – aren’t very popular in Israel.
7. When in Jerusalem don’t say that Jews can’t build in all areas of Jerusalem. If Jews can build and live anywhere they choose in America, why not in Israel? However, while you are in Jerusalem, even as a non-Jew you can pray as in Jerusalem, Israel practicing the religion of your choice is accepted and safe. Just like in America, people can live wherever they choose in Israel and worship freely. That isn’t the case for Jews, Christians or Mormons in nearly any Arab country.
8. Iran is a real danger to Israel and Netanyahu’s redlines are very real. Respect them and the Jewish state. As Zionist leader Zev Jabotinsky wrote in 1929, “The Jewish people – all of us, 100 percent want peace” and it still true today. Whether Iran or the Palestinian Arab issue, Israel is simply trying to stay alive in a dangerous neighborhood.
9. Would be a great gesture if you would commute Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to time-served. Israelis -and American Jews – across the board have asked for commutation as his sentence is simply unfair given previous sentences to people convicted of similar crimes.
10. Most importantly enjoy the wonders of the modern day miracle known as Israel. It is a simply amazing country and everyone who visits with an open mind comes away changed.
President Obama it’s great you are visiting Israel. Hope it is a successful and enjoyable visit.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR Agency. He is also author of “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations.”