Luntz at the Tribeca Film Festival in May(Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

“Judea and Samaria cannot be Judenrein,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said last week during a meeting with a visiting delegation of German diplomats, including Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to get across why he had no intention of touching Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Reuters, which broke the story on Thursday, added that its source claimed Netanyahu has been encouraging his confidants to use the language of ethnic cleansing to counter pressure, particularly from the Obama administration, to limit or contain settlement construction.

That same night, Newsweek (following, we should note, an op-ed in the New Jersey Jewish News) posted a leaked copy of a study prepared in April by pollster and message-man Frank Luntz for The Israel Project, a hawkish nonprofit with offices in Washington and Israel, in which Luntz reported that the question of settlements is “the single toughest” communications issue for Israel. What message tested best? Coincidentally enough, the same one that Netanyahu was making: “We cannot see why it is that peace requires that any Palestinian area would require a kind of ethnic cleansing to remove all Jews. We don’t accept it. Cleansing by either side against either side is unacceptable.”

The story launched a tempest in a teapot, with the left-leaning Jewish lobbying organization J Street accusing The Israel Project—whose entire raison d’etre is to “educate” journalists, and by extension, the public about the threats facing Israel—of, well, doing its job. But the more interesting question is whether Netanyahu is sub-contracting out his communications strategy to the group. Israel Project founder Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi says no. “There is nothing about Judenrein in our book,” she told Tablet. (Luntz did not return a call.) “Much of our book are things leaders already said that we found effective and important.” So: does the tail wag the dog, or is the dog just happy to hear what it wants to?

Chosen Words [Newsweek]
The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary [Newsweek]