Group Urges Pro-Israel Leaders' Silence on Iraq
Memo Outlines Response If Hostilities Occur, Discourages Lecturing of Americans on Middle East
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 27, 2002; Page A13
A group of U.S. political consultants has sent pro-Israel
leaders a memo urging them to keep quiet while the Bush
administration pursues a possible war with Iraq.
The six-page memo was sent by the Israel Project, a group
funded by American Jewish organizations and individual
donors. Its authors said the main audience was American
Jewish leaders, but much of the memo's language is directed
toward Israelis, urging them to play down the likelihood
Israel would retaliate after an Iraqi attack and asking them
not to lecture Americans about the Middle East conflict.
The memo reflects a concern that involvement by Israel in a
U.S.-Iraq confrontation could hurt Israel's standing in
American public opinion and undermine international support
for a hard line against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"Let American politicians fight it out on the floor of
Congress and in the media," the memo said. "Let the nations
of the world argue in front of the U.N. Your silence allows
everyone to focus on Iraq rather than Israel."
The memo, meant to guide pro-Israel leaders' statements
before and during possible hostilities with Iraq, is the
latest contribution to an international public relations
battle that has shadowed the diplomatic maneuvers involving
Iraq and the Middle East. The United States has launched an
"information" effort to boost the image of the United States
in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Saudi Arabia has spent millions of dollars to improve its
public image in the United States. The kingdom has hired
political consultants and advertising specialists and
charged them with reversing damage resulting from the
knowledge that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001,
An Israeli diplomat in Washington said the Israeli
government did not request or fund the efforts of the Israel
Project and that Israeli leaders were unlikely to follow all
the advice. "These are professional public relations
people," the diplomat said. "There's also a
The Iraq memo was issued in the past few weeks and labeled
"confidential property of the Israel Project," which is led
by Democratic consultant Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi with help
from Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican
pollsters Neil Newhouse and Frank Luntz. Several of the
consultants have advised Israeli politicians, and the group
aired a pro-Israel ad earlier this year.
"If your goal is regime change, you must be much more
careful with your language because of the potential
backlash," said the memo, titled "Talking About Iraq." It
added: "You do not want Americans to believe that the war on
Iraq is being waged to protect Israel rather than to protect
In particular, the memo urged Israelis to pipe down about
the possibility of Israel responding to an Iraqi attack.
"Such certainty may be Israeli policy, but asserting it
publicly and so overtly will not sit well with a majority of
Americans because it suggests a pre-determined outcome
rather than a measured approach," it said. The memo
cautioned: "There is the feeling that Israel has NOT done
all it could to bring about peace in the Middle East so
don't try to change public opinion in the middle of a war."
Luntz said the memo was written to advise pro-Israel
Americans about how to respond to Iraq-Israel hostilities.
"The assumption is Iraq will bomb Israel, and then the
assumption is Israel will respond," he said.
Much of the guidance, however, appeared to have Israelis in
mind. "Demonstrate your historic willingness to compromise
sacrifice on behalf of America," it said. "This may not play
well among some Israeli politicians but it will certainly
play well in the states." It advised leaders to say: "Like
America, Israel has a right to defend itself and our
The memo coached: "(A)s an Israeli, most certainly don't
talk about why some Arab leaders and their people dislike
the United States. Americans don't want to be told by an
Israeli why we have problems in the Middle East or why
people hate us."