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Israel's bikini diplomacy

"They're drop-dead gorgeous and can take apart an Uzi in seconds," touts the laddie magazine Maxim about its July pictorial of women from the Israeli Defense Forces.

Apparently thrilled that Maxim has decided to engage the crisis in the Middle East in such a thoughtful and substantive fashion, the Israeli consulate in New York decided to throw a party celebrating the magazine's efforts. Tonight, 9:00pm, at the Manhattan nightclub Marquee.

Not everyone, however, is happy about the event. Seems the consulate's formal invitation featured a photo of 2004 Miss Israel Gal Gadot wearing, well, let's just say the 22-year-old was out of uniform.

Back in Jerusalem, female members of Israel's Knesset are furious. "This pornographic campaign sponsored by the Foreign and Tourism Ministries is an outrage," said MK Colette Avital, who was formerly Israel's consul-general to New York. "It's unfortunate that the Israeli consulate chose to emphasize Israel's relevance with a portrait of a half-naked woman, instead of with one of women of substance and accomplishments," adds MK Zahava Gal-On.

The consulate remains unapologetic. They see the country's image slipping among the crucial demographic of New York men aged 18 to 38, explains David Saranga, consul for media and public affairs. "So we thought we'd approach them with an image they'd find appealing," he says.

We'd be more sympathetic ... had we been invited.

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