Two weeks ago, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, Gershon Mesika, made an unprecedented visit to the European Union Parliament in Brussels, during which he made a historic speech, the first of its kind by a settlement leader before the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Parliament.
During the last year and a half, the Liaison Office of the Shomron Council’s Strategy Unit, under the tutelage of the Director of Public Relations, David Ha’ivri, and the head of the Strategy Unit, Yossi Dagan, has been investing heavily in networking, advocacy and tours of the area for tens of Parliament members around Europe, and the precedent-setting visit to the Parliament was the high point of the efforts by the Shomron Council for a change in direction of European attitudes towards the State of Israel and settlement in Judea and Samaria. This is in tandem with the “Public Relations War” that the Shomron Council’s Strategy Unit has been waging for the last three years for Israeli public opinion, with hundreds of tours taking place in the Shomron for public opinion shapers, journalists and members of Knesset, along with bringing tens of thousands of citizens for visits to the settlements in the framework of the “Shomron – Nice to meet you” public relations initiative.
If the Shomron Regional Council ever needed specific indicators of the success of their visit and the influence it has begun to generate in ever widening and growing circles in Europe, they found them from…. the Palestinian Authority.
In an official letter from the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the PA, the Authority attacks the invitation issued to Mesika, referred to as “Chairman of the Shomron Settlement Board in the occupied Palestinian territory”, to the EU Parliament.
In the letter, composed in a hysterical style and obviously not very diplomatic, perhaps an indication of the pressure the PA is feeling from the new coalitions being formulated between Shomron settlement and members of the European Parliament, Mesika is called a “terrorist” (no less!), and his visit and speech before the Parliament were termed “unprecedented”.
In the official letter, sent to European Union members as well as to all the PA’s missions in European countries, was written, among other things:
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian National Authority condemns the invitation of Gershon Mesika, Chairman of the Shomron Settlement Board in the occupied Palestinian territory, as a guest of honor to address the EU Parliament.
“To give floor to this terrorist at the EU Parliament is an unprecedented deed and comes in stark contradiction to the traditional position of the European Union and its institutions towards the Palestinian people, especially those related to settlement construction.
“The European Union, along with all its institutions, have stressed, on many occasions and through many official statements, its support for international legitimacy and the rights of the Palestinian people; foremost among them, its right to establish its independent state based on the 1967 borders.”
The letter concludes with a sentence that more than anything else, testifies to the fear in the PA Administration of a strategic change and transfer of support for settlement in Judea and Samaria:
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hopes that this unprecedented invitation will not represent a new approach in dealing with the Palestine Question.”
The Shomron Regional Council and the Liaison Office next to the Council reacted with a smile at the hysteria in the PA Foreign Affairs Ministry over the Shomron’s public relations activities in Europe.
“If the Palestinian Authority is under pressure” – says the head of the Shomron Regional Council, Gershon Mesika – “it’s a sign that we’re on the right path. We’ll continue to build up the Land of Israel, and together with the construction we’ll go on with our public relations blitz both in Israel and outside of it.”
Yossi Dagan, Director of the Strategy Unity and Mesika’s advisor, a firm believer in the Shomron’s ”PR War”, explained what’s behind the success of the public relations campaign: “The amazing thing is that when we explain the simple truth, that we are settling Judea and Samaria because this is our land, given to the Jewish people by Biblical fiat, people simply understand and are convinced. Apparently, saying that the land is simply ours works better than all the other feeble excuses. Most people say that they have never heard this explanation before…”
In the meantime, David Ha’ivri, who heads the Shomron Liaison Office, looks to the future: “The hysterical reactions of the Palestinian Authority are only directing us to accomplish more. The PA is scared that the world will discover that settlement in Judea and Samaria is not the problem, but the solution. In coming months, we’ll continue to plow deeply into Europe and the rest of the world and strengthen international support for the State of Israel and for settlement in Judea and Samaria.”