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Middle East

Israeli agents go on PR offensive

Israel is sending more agents abroad, this time on an even more difficult mission: to project a peaceful and positive image of the Jewish state.

As part a new government campaign every citizen travelling overseas becomes an ambassador. But launched in the same week that images aired of suspected Mossad agents preparing to assassinate a Hamas leader in a luxury Dubai hotel, the timing couldn't be worse.

The only training necessary for those wanting to be part of what Information Minister Yuli Edelstein is calling the "Israel Explanatory Force", is perusing a government website or pamphlets handed out as they board planes. The literature stresses Israel is a peace-loving state that developed the cherry tomato and won the Eurovision song contest in 1998 – information Israelis are invited to share during their overseas vacations and business trips.

There has been growing government concern about Israel's image, but the ministry believes the image problem stems not from Israel's actions towards the Palestinians, but from the perception it is a backwards country.

In one TV ad, a fictional British journalist leads a camel, a "typical Israeli animal used to transport water, merchandise and ammunition", through the desert. A Hebrew voice-over cuts in: "Sick of seeing how we're portrayed in the world? You can change the picture."

But Uri Avnery, head of the dovish Gush Shalom group, said: "The only thing that can change the image of Israel is to make peace and stop assassinating people abroad".