The media war

It’s not just the Israeli military that is more prepared this time around — according to the Jerusalem Post, Israel is also attempting to fight a smarter media war.

The Post has a short report on the IDF’s launching a YouTube channel, which features videos of Israeli strikes.

 The Post also has a longer story on the apparent success of Israeli efforts at a more coordinated P.R. offensive: 

As the anti-Hamas operation in Gaza entered its third day Monday and IDF commanders laid the groundwork for a possible ground assault on the Strip, Israeli officials responsible for the parallel media offensive sounded decidedly optimistic.

Reporting on the conflict is a crucial arena of the battle itself, say analysts. The success or failure of the media effort can affect the window of opportunity which the IDF has to fulfill its operational objectives: weakening Hamas and imposing a calm that could not be reached through negotiations.

"I don’t know how long it will last, but at this moment Israel has no small measure of understanding and support, and even approval, from many countries," says former UN ambassador Dan Gillerman, who was brought into the media effort by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni shortly before the aerial attack against Hamas began on Saturday.

"We haven’t seen dramatic condemnations [from world leaders], only the expected and generic calls for calm and cease-fire," said Gillerman.

"Even in the UN I didn’t see anyone happy to condemn us," he added. "Unless something very dramatic happens, such as a blundered hit that kills large numbers of civilians, then we will have enough time to do what we need to do."

In large part, this welcome window to act against the Hamas infrastructure in Gaza is due to a new culture of coordination among the agencies responsible for managing Israel’s media message in times of crisis. These include the Foreign Ministry, the IDF Spokesman’s Unit, the military coordinator in the territories and Prime Minister’s Office representatives.

Unlike in previous military crises, "we have close coordination and unified messages between agencies," says Yarden Vatikai, the director of the National Information Directorate, which is seeing its first trial by fire.

Established in the wake of the Winograd Report’s criticism of insufficient coordination in the media effort during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the NID’s purpose is to synchronize the content and tone of Israel’s message across the many organizations that carry it to the world, whether official or unofficial.

On the media front, preparation for the Gaza operation included training exercises among spokespeople for handling worst-case scenarios, daily conference calls between all the agencies and a daily review of Israel’s media "footprint," or the amount and type of coverage Israel receives around the world.

This kind of preparation, learned the hard way from previous mistakes, is paying off, says Gillerman.

"You can’t take for granted that the entire system will be coordinated properly," he says, "but this time it’s being done to an impressive extent."

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