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Ambassador Finale

Have you ever watched a television show and afterwards felt like you just wasted the last few hours of your life? This is exactly how I felt after watching the torturous (not tortuous) grand finale of The Ambassador last night.

 

For a start, at over two and half hours, it was already going to test my attention span. But the show itself was probably only one and half hours, with one hour of commercials! I kid you not. I have never seen so many commercials in my life. And not one McShwarma one either.

 

I would almost have been able to bear this had the end result not been so disappointing, and reflected exactly what is one of the major problems with Israeli public relations today.

 

If you recall, The Ambassador has been a reality television show, much along the lines of The Apprentice, pitting young Israelis against each other for the position of “Israeli ambassador.” Not as an official ambassador, but rather as a representative working for some obscure American-based Jewish organization. The winner will be travelling around the US, speaking on campuses, and explaining Israel’s position to the world.

 

After weeks and weeks of different tasks, we ended up with three candidates vying for the position of ambassador. We had the smooth and slick Eitan, the affable yet goofy Tzvika, and the compassionate Ethiopian woman Marheta. Despite a terrible mistake (in which he would not explain Israel’s position behind the “violin” incident), I believed that Eitan was the front runner before last night’s episode. However, all that was to change after the group’s trip to the US.

 

Without going in to a fully-blown synopsis (which is Harry’s forte), the group spoke at a US school (predominantly attended by African American teens), with New York State Attorney General and possible future US President Eliot Spitzer, Lloyd Grove of the New York Daily News, Paula Zahn at CNN, and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Each of these people had to choose who they thought would be the best ambassador for Israel.

While mayor Bloomberg and Paula Zahn wimped out and would not choose between the candidates, both Eliot Spitzer and Lloyd Grove were very adamant that Mehreta was the standout ambassador candidate. And Tzvika won over the school kids with his hop hop efforts.

 

Score:

Mehreta 2

Tzvika 1

Eitan 0

 

I should also probably note that during the CNN interview with Paula Zahn, Eitan once again started with his “Israel makes mistakes and we should apologize” routine. Violin-at-checkpoint redux. Alas, he had not learned his lesson: that representing Israel and explaining her position means exactly that – explaining her position.

 

In addition to this valuable advice from some rather influential people, people around the world got to vote and decide who they thought would make the best ambassador to Israel. After the votes came in from 17 countries, Mehreta was once again the people’s choice, with Eitan coming in last (again).

 

Score:

Mehreta 7

Tzvika 6

Eitan 4

 

So Mehreta had a clear mandate. Despite her broken English – or perhaps because of it – she would be the best person to represent Israel. And after watching her efforts in the US, I would have to agree. She certainly won me over.

Tzvika also was in with a chance, in my opinion, but I cringed during the episode as I saw his transition from harmless goofball to goofball getting-a-slightly-large-head. It seems that all of the compliments about his personality and boyish good looks may have taken their toll on Tzvika, to the point where he proclaimed at one point that his demographic is “15-20 year-old girls.” Also, his “the Palestinians need more than a new state; they need a new state of mind” was great the first time. But last night, he repeated it for perhaps the fifth time, and I was almost snoozing. Nevertheless, you can’t help but like the guy. His refusal to go to the Knicks game on Friday night – the Jewish Shabbat – instead opting to spend a lonely day in his hotel room, showed what he is made of (which reminds me – how can a show about people representing the Jewish state of Israel organize Knicks tickets for Friday night? Especially since one of the candidates is observant)

So the scene was set. And as the three candidates sat in front of the judges, at Ben Gurion airport, I couldn’t help but think that the smug look on Eitan’s face was about to transform into a look of horror.

 

However, as it happened, Eitan’s smug look got even smugger, as two of the three judges ignored both the world community and the prominent people in New York. Despite coming across as a used car salesman (and worse, one who apologizes for the performance of some of his cars), Eitan was declared the victor.

 

And, hence, the show which was supposed to take Israeli public relations forward a notch committed one of the fundamental errors plaguing it: what I call the “Israelis-know-better” syndrome. Instead of listening to what the international community want to hear, Israeli public relations people tend to think that they know better, and hence deliver the message that they want to deliver, in the manner in which they see fit. Similarly, the judges of The Ambassador ignored the sentiments of objective outsiders, and went ahead with their own decision, which diametrically opposed the will of the people who matter. Oh, the insanity of it all!

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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