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Brand Israel haunted by the issues with Palestine

by on April 22, 2012

Israel’s 28th position in the Nations Brand Index caught my attention. I did not realise the country could be that low in the ranking. Obviously, the country is well known for the disputes with Palestine but I would not imagine the Brand was that low positioned. The country has highly invested in tourism and, recently, Tel Aviv was named the world’s best gay city[1]. Therefore, the image of a tolerant country is beneficial for Israel. However, the geopolitical issues with Palestine have a greater impact in public opinion and, consequently, it affects its positions in the NBI.

In 2004 the country launched Brand Israel but in 2006 it was considered the worst brand in Simon Anholt’s index.[2] Though the country has slowly moved upwards in the ranking it still has plenty work to do in order to improve its image.

The Israeli government has never understood the crucial role public diplomacy plays in international affairs and for that reason it has never invested much in it[1]. Israel depends on external assistance and it is internationally isolated, so it seems logic the need for investment in its image abroad[2]. But the main reason for Israel’s position is not anonymity but the disputes with the Palestinians and the Middle East. In the past, “Israel maintained a positive image and reputation abroad from 1948 to 1967 and during the few periods of constructive negotiations in the Arab–Israeli conflict”[3].

Interestingly, in 2010 Israel’s image has improved in Future Brands’ Country Brand Index. Obama’s brokered peace talks between Israel and Palestine, in September, had an important impact for the country’s image. Therefore it seems the situation between Israel and Palestine is the key issue to improve the image of the country abroad. Also, according to Simon Anholt, “countries are judged by what they do, not by what they say”[4]. For this reason, Israel needs to start focusing on its actions instead of its rhetoric. Israel has “devoted a great deal of effort to trying to convince the outside world that their cause is deserving of support, with the fault lying with the other side”[5]. The country believes it has been misunderstood by the international community, but repeating the arguments will not improve its image in foreign audiences[6].Plus, Israeli government was accused of hiring a team of bloggers to surf the Internet and post beneficial comments regarding the country[7]. This type of initiatives are jeopardising the country’s image and delegitimizing  government’s public diplomacy initiatives as propaganda.

Lastly, Israel urgently needs to change its strategy in public diplomacy.  It seems the country has not learned its lesson and maintaining its posture it will denigrate the country’s image. Consequently, it will jeopardise Israel in the long term and it may endanger the support of certain countries in its geopolitical dispute with Palestine.


[2] Ghassan Khatib, ‘Avoiding the Spin’, Bitterlemons.org, No. 42, 17 November 2003

[4] Anholt, S. (2010) Places: identity, image and reputation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 60

[5] Ghassan Khatib, ‘Avoiding the Spin’, Bitterlemons.org, No. 42, 17 November 2003

[6] Anholt, S. (2010) Places: identity, image and reputation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 60

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