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Abbas' advertising campaign for peace is more than worth the effort

Date: 21.11.08

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas deserves praise for his decision to take the case for peace directly to Israeli citizens by purchasing Hebrew-language newspaper ads explaining to them the benefits of accepting the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. One would have expected that the historic peace offer extended to Israel by the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference would have been well received, but Israeli leaders have been reluctant to even discuss it. The reason for this is party due to the fact that Israeli leaders fear a backlash from the Israeli public, whose members remain skeptical and/or largely uniformed about the details of the offer. Abbas' attempt to reassure and inform Israelis is therefore welcome, especially since so very little has been done to promote the plan among average Israelis.

Abbas' initiative has generated some criticism in the Arab media, especially concerning the cost of the ads, with commentators arguing, for example, that the money would have been better spent if it were used to pay for a siege-breaking boat trip to Gaza. But while arguments such as these have merit, the benefits of peace are worth every penny of investment. In addition, Saudi Arabia and other supporters of the initiative can step in to cover the costs of the campaign and thereby deflect much of the criticism.

The ads, which are expected to run in newspapers in the United States and Europe, also come as a welcome counterbalance to the many negative campaigns there. Funded by pro-Israel organizations, these campaigns have included advertisements in US subway stations showing images of Palestinian children bearing guns paired with slogans such as "this child will grow up to be a terrorist" and "Israel seeks a partner for peace" or Palestine, "a society that targets Israel ... because Israel shares America's values." Whereas negative messages such as these have the sole purpose of demonizing the other and obstructing a peace deal, Abbas' ads strike a positive tone and serve to facilitate dialogue and understanding.

The fact that the Israelis and their American allies have rejected the Arab Peace Initiative is an indication that they fail to comprehend what the offer means in terms of security, trade, investment and innumerable other benefits for Israel. Through campaigns such as the one launched by Abbas, Arabs can help Israelis to envision a better future for themselves.