General: Israel can't even explain Palestinian issue to itself

Monday, September 13, 2004

HERZLIYA, Israel In a rare criticism, Israel's military chief said the fierce domestic debate over the Palestinian conflict has undermined the positions of the Jewish state.

Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon told an international conference on terrorism that Israel can not explain its positions at home or abroad because of the dispute over basic questions regarding the conflict with the Palestinians. Ya'alon said there is no agreement within Israel over the conflict or its solution, Middle East Newsline reported.

"There is a dispute about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the Israeli side," Ya'alon said on Sunday. "There's a consensus to fight terror. I don't think there's a consensus regarding a solution to this conflict."

"I don't think there's a consensus of the diagnosis of this problem," Ya'alon added. "If you don't agree on the narrative [of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] then you can't explain it inside or outside of Israel."

Ya'alon acknowledged that Israel has no effective information campaign. He dismissed the investment by the government into Israel's efforts with the media.

"We are in the game of information warfare," Ya'alon said with a smile. "We are doing it so well that we can't find it."

Analysts at the conference, sponsored by the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, agreed that Israel has performed poorly in explaining its case. They said Israel has also failed to hurt Palestinian insurgency groups on a strategic level.

"You have done well tactically," Rohan Gunaratna, a director of terrorism research at the Singapore-based Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, said. "You have failed to stop terrorism at a strategic level."

Gideon Meir, head of information at Israel's Foreign Ministry, said Israeli spokespeople are at a disadvantage in any debate with their Palestinian counterparts. Meir said Palestinians can keep their message extremely simple and are rarely questioned regarding their assertions.

"The Palestinian message is if only there was no occupation," Meir said. "I have to speak more and discuss the history and nature of the conflict."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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