Media attention on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s questionable travel expenses on Tuesday threatened to obscure the charge in the state comptroller’s report that the government has failed to utilize available resources to fight the anti-Israel boycott.
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s annual report on government operations alleged that the “Foreign Ministry projects meant to improve Israel’s image in target communities around the world are lacking in their planning, management and implementation, and are failing to achieve their designated goals,” of combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS).
Specifically, it noted “failings” in presenting Israel’s case to the world during the 2014 war in Gaza: “A lack of cooperation between the Foreign Ministry and the army spokesman, and a lack of speed in getting information to the media, brought about an advocacy failure during Operation Protective Edge,” the report says.
The report points to an overall lack of focus in trying to mobilize a response to BDS. In particular, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Relations, established to deal with BDS in 2013, has not coordinated its activities with the Foreign Ministry, until then responsible for handling the BDS issue.
“Not only was there no cooperation between the new [ministry] and the Foreign Ministry, but there was an active power struggle between the two over responsibilities and resources,” the report says.
Furthermore, it was charged that the new ministry has yet to get off the ground.
“As of 2015, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Relations has still not put into place its own operational work plans and still lacks the operational advantages that are built into the Foreign Ministry, including the professional knowledge and experience… required to manage a campaign effectively against BDS,” the report adds. “Reports from missions abroad have made it clear that the problems in this area have steadily exacerbated.”
Asked Tuesday if the prime minister had any response to the criticisms, a spokesperson for Netanyahu said the Foreign Ministry was responsible. The Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
Zionist Camp MK Tzipi Livni quickly seized on the report’s findings Tuesday afternoon:
“Splitting authorities when it comes to public diplomacy may respond to political needs, but severely harms Israel. We must quickly regroup the authorities within the Foreign Ministry. Even this is not enough. It is more important to know what the policies are and who is leading them. Will the Bibi-Bennett-Liberman government serve the BDS against Israel, or will it help Israel against BDS?”
Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon, announced an anti-BDS conference, to be held at the United Nations, entitled “Building Bridges, Not Boycotts.”
Slated for May 31, the conference is a joint effort of the Israeli Mission to the U.N. and a wide range of organizations including the World Jewish Congress, Keren HaYesod/ United Israel Appeal, the American Center for Law and Justice, the ADL, StandWithUs, Israel Bonds, B’nai B’rith International, the Hillel movement, and CAMERA.