Neil Lazarus
An internationally acclaimed expert in the fields of Middle East politics, public diplomacy and effective communication training.
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By avoiding Mandela’s memorial, Netanyahu digs Israel’s PR grave

Netanyahu passing on Mandela's memorial was agora wise, shekel foolish

As the world gathers to remember Nelson Mandela, one of its greatest leaders, the Israeli Prime Minister decided not to attend. Netanyahu has reinforced the belief of many that he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

To add salt to the PR wound, Netanyahu’s excuse that the price of travelling to South Africa prevented him from attending today’s memorial lies nothing short of pathetic. The Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel has also revealed that Netanyahu knows how to spend public money when he wants to.

Netanyahu’s expenses have soared nearly 80 percent since he took office in 2009, reaching $905,000 last year. Reports claim that NIS 312,000 was spent on Netanyahu’s home in Caesarea. He also spent around NIS 6,000 of public money on scented candles in 2012.

Maybe the Prime minister was short of a penny, having spent (or at least budgeted) for 10,000 shekels worth of ice-cream – according to reports in the Israeli press.

In 2012, the Netanyahus were allocated NIS 2.46m of taxpayer money for cleaning, clothing and food – excluding ice-cream.

To excuse yourself from attending Nelson Mandela’s memorial on the basis of expense is lacking truth and needs reconciling with the facts.

The reality is that the decision not to attend was political in nature. Netanyahu felt that a letter of condolence and sending a low level delegation would be enough. Why attend the memorial of a man who supported the Palestinian cause? Surely, as Ben Gurion was rumored to have said: “It’s not what the goyim think, it’s was the Jews do.” The problem is, that it is this mentality that has led to some of Israel’s worst PR fiascoes.

The anti-Israel lobby could not have wished for a better Christmas present. For decades they have inaccurately argued that Israel is like white South Africa, that Israel shared their nuclear secrets with the regime and was sympathetic to the Afrikaans’s cause.

There is no apartheid in Israel, to argue that it exists is political rhetoric.

Yet by acting as he did, Netanyahu critically damaged Israel’s image.

Palestinian propagandists were quick off the mark, social media and university campuses worldwide have been set a light with Mandela – Israel – apartheid rhetoric.


Today, many of the pro-Israel organisations are having to employ damage control as the government’s shortsightedness has led once again to a self-made public relations mess.

If Netanyahu had attended the memorial of Mandela, despite the political awkwardness, Israel would have stood shoulder to shoulder with the other countries of the world. A nation like all others, as Herzl had envisioned. Yet, for now at least, the Israeli government is lacking the vision of our founding fathers and what is clear is Netanyahu is not in the same league as Mandela.

About the Author
Neil Lazarus is an internationally acclaimed expert in the field of Middle East Politics, Israel Public Diplomacy and Effective Communication Training. He is the the director of He is emerging as one of Israel's leading key note speakers. He regularly podcasts.
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