Center for American Progress

Launch a Strategic Communications Effort in the Middle East
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Launch a Strategic Communications Effort in the Middle East

The Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts over the settlements are not yet concluded and must be continued in order to revive U.S. credibility in Palestine and the Arab world.

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The Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts over the settlements are not yet concluded and must be continued in order to revive U.S. credibility in Palestine and the Arab world. But the settlements themselves are only a small portion of the problem. The time has come to pivot to the next step—a broader public outreach and strategic communications effort in the Middle East that builds on the first steps of the Obama administration. This should be supplemented by a tightly focused strategic communications effort directed toward building support for a two-state solution among Palestinians and the broader Arab world. Such a campaign cannot wait for an actual negotiated agreement that can then be “sold.” It must begin now to build the foundations of public support and to prepare public opinion for the likely concessions involved in the likely deal.

The communications campaign cannot only be directed toward the Arabs and Palestinians. The Obama administration will achieve its goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only if its actions are not viewed by Israelis as hostile to their interests. Washington needs to reassure Israel that it will continue to support its security and work to maintain a close bilateral relationship while also pushing forcefully for a two-state solution which it sees as in the best interests of the region. Israel and the United States cannot afford to surprise each other with unexpected, uncoordinated initiatives that collide with each other’s strategic position.

At the same time, both nations must meet their commitments in the full spirit of cooperation and common purpose. To do this, the Obama administration should consider ways to shape Israel’s strategic calculations, such as a package of additional financial assistance to help Israel with the costs of moving settlements and military bases in the West Bank, both of which might be the result of a deal with Israel on permanent borders or a more comprehensive agreement.

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