Israel, Palestinians Fight for U.S. Hearts and Minds

"As Israelis and Palestinians ratchet up the violence, dimming prospects for Middle East peace, their supporters in the United States are conducting an ever more frenetic public relations battle," reports Reuters correspondent Christian Wiessner. But Palestinians trying to win support for their side in the U.S. are facing what "often seems like a lost cause," says Nathan Guttman, Washington correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. "Public opinion remains tough on the Palestinians. Arafat is getting his lowest popularity ratings ever in the U.S. - and it's an understatement to say he's never been very popular in the U.S. According to Edward Abbington, a former U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem and now a political adviser to the Palestinians, Israel began its public relations 'blitz' a few months ago, getting a head start on the Palestinians. He describes the balance of forces between the two sides as David and Goliath. 'On one side there's a sophisticated people with access to the administration and the media and on the other side the Palestinians are unorganized and don't succeed at getting their message across,' he says." AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, is "considered one of the most powerful in the country. It has tremendous organization abilities, able to reach people across the country and to influence legislators. The Israeli government also has its own public relations apparatus, and there are the individual Jewish organizations, which work together to maintain Israel's image in Washington."