For the State of Israel, public diplomacy is a challenging mission. Anti-Semitism and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict loom as the largest obstacles for Israeli public diplomacy.
While many of the incidents that impact Israeli public diplomacy occur locally, such as its ongoing conflict with Palestinians, the ramifications of such occurrences are global in nature.
From 1948-1967, Israel maintained a bearable image abroad during a time of relative calm in the region. Much of this was due to the perceived notion that Israel was the "underdog." However, the 1967 War altered Israel's global image after it waged a pre-emptive attack against Syria and Egypt. During that war, Jordan refused Israel's request not to enter the war. By the end of the war, Israel had captured all of Jerusalem, the Sinai peninsula, the Golan Heights, and much of the area to the west of the Jordan River.
Since September 2000, Israel's international reputation has deteriorated, today being often labelled as apartheid. Many campaings, including the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctioins) aim to demonise, dehumanise, and de-legitimise the State of Israel, creating a difficult challenge for Israeli public diplomacy. Israeli politicians are thus defending Israel from a negative starting point.
The BDS movement not only puts the Israeli artists performing abroad under pressure (demonstrations in front of concert venues, disruptions before their performances) but also sanctions foreign artists performing in Israel or performing with Israelis. There have been may initiatives that call for dialogue rather than boycott, most notably The Creative Community for Peace, or the conference "Building Bridges, not Boycotts" at the soil of UN General Assembyl in May 2015.
On the Israeli side, the perception of Israel as a state seen only through the lense of conflict is hardfelt. The Israeli term of public diplomacy is "hasbara", meaning "explaining", and its aims and techniques are broadly discussed. However, there has not been a concentrated effort to tackle it. Israeli public diplomacy suffers from multiplicity of agencies without a single one that would coordinate the efforts.
A valuable partner for Israeli public diplomacy is Jewish diaspora worldwide (World Jewish Congress, European Jewish Congress) and Christian circles that often initiate and pursue efforts to tackle deligitimization campaigns and negative image of Israel abroad.
In October 2006, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni hosted a conference where she launched a new multi-million dollar project to “rebrand” Israel, directing the international attention towards high-tech, multiculturalism and culture. The Foreign Ministry has encouraged Israelis to set up Weblogs and to post their home movies on the You Tube video Web site. It is also working in conjunction with the Israel Association of Gay Men, Lesbians and Transgenders to encourage LGBT tourism.
In 2009, the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs was established, responsible for the so-called peer-to-peer diplomacy that wanted to engage as many citizens as possible to the effort to "explain" Israel abroad. The ministry ceased to exist in 2013.
"The new Israeli public diplomacy approach seeks to empower Israeli citizens to utilize their position both as information consumers and producers in order to participate in grass-roots public diplomacy efforts. So-called ‘peer-to-peer diplomacy’ reflects the shift from ‘old public diplomacy’, where the nation-state has since 1960 been the sole actor in international relations, to today’s reality where average citizens play an increasingly important role. The notion of ‘peer-to-peer’ (P2P) describes the latest development in diplomatic practice, wherein civilians — by virtue of social media — are not only consumers of government information, but also information producers, with the potential to bypass existing official government bodies. Today’s public diplomacy is about more than governments employing ‘soft and smart power’. It is increasingly about dealing and collaborating with a public that can obtain and produce the information themselves." :Shay Attias. (Jan 2013). Israel’s New Peer-to-Peer Diplomacy. The Hague Journal of Diplomacy Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 7:4. P473-482.
Israel is also a sponsor of the Israeli Birthright program Taglit, which provides free educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26.
Reaching Out to the Middle East In July 2007, the Israeli Foreign Ministry unveiled a Persian-language version of its Web site in hopes of reaching out to Iran's younger generation. The new website named, Hamdami, which in Persian means camaraderie, aims to educate the Iranian people about the Jewish state who have been misled by the radical Iranian regime. There are roughly 11 million regular internet users in Iran, and Israel sees using the Web as the most effective means of communication to the Iranian people.
- Capital - Jerusalem
- Population - 6,352,117 (July 2006 est.)
- Government – Parliamentary Democracy
- President Reuven Rivlin
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu