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Israeli VIPs Need to Branch Out

Israel's consul general in New York says the emissaries are ignoring many Jewish cities.

by Tom Tugend

November 1, 2001 | 7:00 pm

While New York, Washington and -- to a slightly lesser degree -- Los Angeles are inundated by visiting Israeli Cabinet ministers and other VIPs, other major American cities and Jewish communities are all but ignored.

The charge has been leveled by Alon Pinkas, the Israeli consul general in New York, in a notably sarcastic cable to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and other Israeli consulates in the United States.

"Another breakfast [by Israeli envoys] with the Anti-Defamation League in New York only adds calories -- bagels and lox. If anything threatens the world's salmon population, it is Israel's information campaign policy," Pinkas wrote in the cable, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Noting that within a week's time, four Israeli emissaries had briefed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the media in New York, as well as congressional leaders in Washington, Pinkas urged sending the envoys to Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Houston instead.

"Four hundred Jews in Miami are more important than the Presidents Conference, and an ABC subsidiary in Chicago reaches a market five times larger than CNN in the U.S.," Pinkas wrote.

In Los Angeles, Consul-General Yuval Rotem buttressed Pinkas' complaint. Within the last three weeks, he noted, Los Angeles has hosted three Israeli Cabinet ministers, a former prime minister and a former defense minister.

Rotem's jurisdiction extends across the southwestern United States. But, "during the two years I've been here, I've been unable to persuade a single minister to visit any other city, not even San Diego, which is a two-hour drive away, or Las Vegas, where there are 80,000 Jews, including 10,000 Israelis," he said. "Those places are dying for firsthand briefings."

The key newspapers in the most-visited cities are also getting weary. Pinkas asked the foreign ministry to have ministers meet, for example, with The Philadelphia Inquirer, "instead of oppressing The New York Times (which, by the way, is losing patience with our 'briefings') for the eighth time in a month."

Rotem has detected a similar fatigue at The Los Angeles Times, after arranging briefings by five Israeli emissaries within 25 days.

Pinkas, having been asked to book Housing Minister Natan Sharansky on a prestigious Sunday morning TV talk show during an upcoming visit, warned that these programs "are not interested in Israel or Israeli spokespeople" except for a prime minister, and possibly foreign minister.

While Israel's standing remains high in American public opinion polls, the Jewish State has been shunted out of the media spotlight by Afghanistan, anthrax and economic worries, Pinkas said.

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