September 21, 2011
Opinion: Breaking through
I often wonder what would happen if political leaders were replaced by creative directors of advertising agencies. You see, in the ad business there’s a law against boredom.
If we don’t come up with new and fresh ideas all the time, we get fired. Politics is the opposite — keep mouthing clichés and you’ll be OK.
I thought about this the other day when I read this sleep-inducing headline in Haaretz: “Netanyahu: Negotiations only way to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.” No kidding. How many times have we heard this tedious truth? Politicians have no respect for our need to be stimulated.
This gave me a thought: Since I used to play creative director myself, what kind of novel ideas would I recommend to Bibi to help him grab the world’s attention? I came up with three.
The first came to me while I was having breakfast last week with my cousin Danny Danon, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and member of Likud. We were talking about the Palestinians’ extraordinary success at making Israel — the party that is ready to negotiate — appear to be the obstacle to peace. How could we turn the tables?
My answer: Book a conference room and wait.
During Bibi’s speech to the United Nations on Friday, Sept. 23, he should say the following: “Mr. Abbas, if you are serious about peace, you must negotiate with Israel. I have rearranged my schedule and reserved the conference room of my hotel for all day Sunday. I will be there, ready to negotiate with you.”
I know, the Palestinians will call it a PR stunt, the cynics and Bibi-haters will ridicule him, and Abbas won’t show up. But I have news for you: The media will come. And they will be happy to film and interview Bibi alone in the conference room in front of the empty chair of his “peace partner.”
Can you think of a stronger image for Israel? The leader of Israel having coffee alone and waiting for the leader of the Palestinians to walk a few blocks and start negotiating for peace and a two-state solution.
For those of you who support the Palestinian position that they can’t negotiate until Israel agrees to things like border parameters and settlement freezes, I can make an equally strong case that Israel can’t negotiate until Palestinians recognize a Jewish state and forgo the deal-killing “right of return.”
In other words, no preconditions in return for no preconditions. An invitation for the parties to sit down and talk — and one party, Israel, would be there bright and early Sunday morning.
My second idea bubbled up after a strong Turkish coffee last week at the Israeli Consulate. I was meeting with David Siegel, the new and dynamic Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, and we were lamenting the unfortunate situation that a great country like Israel should be seen in such a negative light in the Middle East.
What to do? Blast an ad campaign to the hundreds of millions of Arabs who watch Al Jazeera, and convey this simple message: Israel is not your enemy.
I can see you rolling your eyes and thinking: Are you out of your mind? Arabs have been poisoned on Israel — no clever charm offensive can change that. Well, that’s why the ad business is so much fun: We don’t let cynicism ruin a good party. We know the value of creating ideas that shock people.
So, send me your ideas for 30-second commercials that Israel could run on Al Jazeera. (One idea: Have Israeli Arabs as our spokespeople.) Of course, in the likely event that Al Jazeera refuses to run the ads, guess who also wins?
My third idea came to me last month in Jerusalem, when I went to see a free outdoor concert by Ehud Banai in one of the tent cities. In between the songs, Menachem Froman, a well-known rabbi from one of the settlements, shared words of inspiration with a local sheik. The way they connected on a religious level made me dream.
I thought: If the Middle East conflict is about more than politics, then why not aim for a spiritual peace agreement? If Jews and Muslims are children of the same God, we are hurting our own God whenever we fight. Why not have 100 rabbis and 100 sheiks gather in Casablanca during next year’s Ramadan for a Spiritual Peace Conference? The theme: “How Can We Please the God We Share?”
Sure, with all the venom and extremism in the air, it’s a long shot — but isn’t that precisely why we need new ideas?
The point is this: We need new ideas that will break through the hardened clichés that dominate the discourse. Ideas that will electrify the world by shaming the haters and honoring the lovers. Peace groups like J Street and Peace Now should stop spewing platitudes about the importance of peace and think of more creative ways to convey their message.
It’s not enough to be right; you must also be captivating.
Voters everywhere should put their political leaders on notice: Tell us something we don’t know. No more tedious truths — we want new and fresh ideas.
Stop boring us or we’ll fire you and hire an ad guy.