Recently the IDF appointed two senior officers to key positions in its spokesperson’s unit. While both have impressive experience and reputations, writes Yaakov Katz, neither has any prior background in media or public relations. Katz questions the decision in light of what happened in the latest flare-up with Hamas, which underscored the importance of the war of perceptions. Katz points especially to the fall-out from Israel’s bombing on May 15 of a tower in Gaza City that housed the local offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, along with a Hamas command post:
That same day, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit released a statement claiming that Hamas had an intelligence research-and-development unit in the building that constituted a “unique asset for the terrorist organization.” [Only] four days after the bombing, Secretary of State [Antony] Blinken finally received [evidence from Israel that this was so].
Another few weeks would pass before the picture cleared up even more. On June 7, nearly a month after the strike, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Gilad Erdan, met with AP’s top management in New York and revealed that Hamas had operated special electronic-warfare technology from [the] tower that was being used to disrupt the Iron Dome missile-defense system. A legitimate target? Definitely. Has any evidence though been made public? No.
The IDF knows how to put together and publicize evidentiary files on targets without compromising intelligence sources. It also knows how to share this kind of information with the media and its allies in real time and not after a month. If the IDF had done exactly that after dropping a bomb on al-Jalaa tower, would Israel have been spared the criticism of the White House or the State Department? Possibly.
So why did none of this happen? The reason, I believe, is because the IDF and the former government neglected the media front. The IDF conducted itself as if it operates in a vacuum without needing to explain its actions to the public and as if international diplomatic pressure meant absolutely nothing to it. . . . It is time Israel recognizes that the media front is no less important than the battlefield in Gaza or the home front at which Hamas missiles are fired.