Foreign Ministry reportedly rejects Liberman’s proposed media smear campaign against Abbas

Foreign Ministry reportedly rejects Liberman’s proposed media smear campaign against Abbas

Spokesperson cannot confirm reports that WJC will fund ads instead; Israeli diplomats call foreign minister's proposal 'divorced from reality,' say it won't help European public opinion of Israel

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday proposed that Israel’s five principle embassies in Europe publish full-page advertisements in major European newspapers denigrating Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but senior Foreign Ministry officials reportedly shot down his proposal, calling it “an idea divorced from reality.”

After the Foreign Ministry and Israeli embassies in question refused to foot the bill for the ads — which is estimated to run into the hundreds of thousands of euros — the World Jewish Congress agreed to pay for the campaign and sign its name on them, Maariv reported. However, a WJC spokesperson Monday night was not aware of the initiative, and it was not immediately clear when the ads might run.

Walla news reported that the ads will depict Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal as a terrorist, and Abbas as peace rejectionist because of his recent silence in the face of Mashaal’s calls for Israel’s violent destruction.

“From the sea to the river, from north to south, we will not give up any part of Palestine — it is our country, our right and our homeland,” Mashaal said on Saturday. “We are all one,” he added, referring to Palestinians residing in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and inside Israel. “We are all united in the way of resistance.”

According to Liberman’s office, Jewish organizations inquired as to what they could do to counter “the world’s silence regarding Mashaal’s demonizing and inciting statements against Israel and Abbas’s complicity with them.”

At Liberman’s suggestion, ads to be run in British, French, Spanish, German and Italian newspapers will be directed at convincing Europeans of Abbas’s alleged connection to Hamas’s terrorism, and highlighting the fact he did not criticize Mashaal for saying he would “not give up an inch of Palestine,” and that “Jihad and armed resistance is the only way.”

“We don’t remember any time that we operated this way, through ads rather than forwarding personal messages or interviews with the media,” a Foreign Ministry source told Maariv. “An ad of this kind doesn’t transmit trustworthiness.”

“Europe regards Abbas as a ‘good guy’ who they need to help and strengthen. When Israel attacks him with advertisements, we come across poorly,” it said.

“We are marked as the ‘bad guys’ because of the decision to advance construction plans in the West Bank. The ads simply don’t obtain our objectives, and only increase the absurdity of Israel’s stance in the eyes of European public opinion.”

The Foreign Ministry’s Euro-Asia director, Yaakov Livneh, wrote an op-ed in Maariv on Monday in which he called for a return to the emphasis on diplomacy that “enabled international legitimacy for the existence and founding of a state in its early years,” which, he contended, “have been pushed aside.

“Israel’s struggle is governed more and more by diplomatic tools, but now in particular the international area has turned into our Achilles’ heel,” he wrote. He called for the addition of more diplomats; holding on to experienced, veteran envoys; and reaching out to unfamiliar communities for international support.

Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the international community and Abbas for failing to speak out against explicit calls for Israel’s destruction by Hamas leaders on Saturday.

Also on Monday, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council slammed Israel over its plans to expand Jewish settlements beyond the Green Line, especially in the contentious E1 area east of Jerusalem.

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