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Maxim Features Models From Israeli Army

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

By MATTI FRIEDMAN, Associated Press Writer

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JERUSALEM — 

A new public relations effort by Israel's New York consulate wants the country known less for its conflict with the Palestinians or for its myriad holy sites than for its beautiful women in uniform. Or, more accurately, out of uniform.

A spread in the upcoming July issue of Maxim features a roster of Israeli models, all ex-soldiers, photographed wearing very little in the cause of their country. Headlined "Women of the Israel Defense Forces," the campaign has already been criticized as inappropriate in Israel.

The Maxim shoot presents Israeli models including Nivit Bash, who served in military intelligence _ though the only remnant of an army career evident in her photograph on the magazine's Web site is a military-style black cap that matches a minimal swimsuit.

Gal Gadot, a former Miss Israel and army fitness instructor, appears in a bikini and high heels sprawled provocatively on the ledge of a Tel Aviv high-rise. The photo also landed her on the cover of the New York Post below an equally provocative headline, "Piece in the Mideast."

The idea originated in the media office at Israel's consulate in New York, where research showed that Israel meant little to young American men.

"Males that age have no feeling toward Israel one way or another, and we view that as a problem, so we came up with an idea that would be appealing to them," said David Dorfman, a media adviser at the consulate.

Maxim's popularity with that demographic led to the partnership.

"Maxim was approached by the Israeli consulate to be a part of reshaping Israel's public image, specifically because of our unmatched mainstream reach to men aged 18 to 35," the magazine said in a statement. "We are pleased with the result of our work together."

The consulate and Maxim were set to launch the Israel-themed photo shoot at a glitzy event in Manhattan on Tuesday night.

But in Israel, the campaign drew an angry reaction from lawmaker Colette Avital, a former diplomat who served as Israel's consul-general in New York in the 1990s.

"We definitely have public relations problems, and I'm all for creative solutions," Avital told The Associated Press. "But there are enough beautiful and interesting things we can use to tap this demographic than to show a half-naked woman in a magazine of this kind, considered pornographic.

"I don't think this helps Israel's image."

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