In 2006, the Israel State Comptroller published a scathing report on the Israeli hasbara apparatus. The report evaluated the preparedness and functionality of the national hasbara establishments in Israel in the areas of foreign relations and defense before and during the Second Lebanon War. The apparatus subsequently underwent a comprehensive overhaul, which included the creation of a governmental office dedicated to hasbara. Yet we still continuously hear – from politicians, journalists, and researchers – that Israel lacks an adequate hasbara apparatus. The commonly held belief that Israel has a “hasbara problem”, especially when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, is as strong as ever.
This study is the first of its kind in its attempt to comparatively analyze the hasbara apparatus in its present form based on facts, data and international criteria. Public diplomacy may be evaluated based on seven independent criteria. A thorough evaluation of the Israeli hasbara apparatus demonstrates that it satisfactorily, if not exceptionally, fulfills each of these criteria. Further, this study shows that the Israeli hasbara apparatus is an elaborate, well-coordinated, sophisticated mechanism that adjusts to emergency situations and is able to facilitate cooperation between a varied set of players. This study also reveals that Israeli public diplomacy is particularly effective in using new media and informal communication; it has successfully internalized the importance of "soft power".
It is clear from an analysis of the data that the commonly held belief, obsessively reiterated by senior officials, that Israel has a “hasbara problem”, is fundamentally incorrect. The success or failure of the hasbara apparatus must be evaluated based on the relevant goals and standards of such an apparatus. This paper shows that, in light of the Israeli hasbara apparatus's efficiency and sophistication as evaluated based on its goals and standards, one cannot attribute Israel's poor international status and image to insufficient and inefficient hasbara.
The conclusion of this study is that the “hasbara problem” is a myth that diverts focus from Israel's real problems which are the results of problematic policy, not flawed hasbara of appropriate policy.