It is no secret that Israel has various degrees of communication, commerce and
cooperation with the Persian Gulf countries. It is also no secret that all this
contact is usually held behind closed doors, far from the public
This will change Tuesday when Foreign Ministry director-general Rafi
Barak is scheduled to hold a Twitter chat on the “official channel of the
virtual Israeli embassy to GCC countries.”
The ministry opened the
Twitter account last month, and defined it as “dedicated to promoting dialogue
with the people of the GCC region.” The GCC, or Gulf Cooperation Council,
includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and
By 8 p.m. Monday night, the virtual embassy had some 1,043
followers, and had tweeted 57 times.
On Monday, the following tweet
appeared: “Want to know what #Israel thinks about the #GCC? Israel’s top
diplomat is ready to respond live! Tuesday 6/8 @ 12:15 (Riyadh time)
Another tweet read, “Who’s behind @IsraelintheGCC? Live
Q&A with Director General of Israel Foreign Ministry!”
What makes the
scheduled “Eidtalk” unusual is not only that it will be a direct and public
channel of communication between a high-level Israeli diplomat and the Persian
Gulf, but also because it will be with Barak, a veteran diplomat who has
remained well out of the Israeli public’s eye – rarely giving interviews – since
taking over the key post in 2011.
According to the ministry, the
“EidTalk” will be in Arabic and English.
So far, the fare posted on the
account in English of the virtual embassy has been relatively tame, though the
responses have not always followed suit.
On July 18 there was a “Ramadan
Kareem greeting all the #gcc countries peoples wishing #peace and #humanity to
This elicited a number of responses that varied from the pleasant
–“Good job Israel. Hope this initiative will bring a much needed dialogue b/w
Israel and other GCC Countries” – to the nasty – “@IsraelintheGCC to all
muslims? Then stop killing and torturing them!”
Other tweets ranged from wishing
a “Happy Renaissance Day (June 23) to the people of #Oman,” (“It’s July 23 you
Zionists,” someone responded), to a tweet with a link to a site introducing an
Israeli innovation that turns air into drinking water.
A number of
postings on the account said that they hoped the virtual embassy would be a
prelude to a real one.
Israel does have a single representation in the
Persian Gulf, but – in an indication of the degree to which these ties are kept
completely out of the public eye – it is not even willing to say where it is.
The mission’s existence came to light a few months ago when a Finance Ministry
document presented to the cabinet showed that one of 11 new Israeli
representations set up from 2010-2012 was established in the
Officials from the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office
would not, however, reveal where it was established.
interest sections in Qatar and Oman in the past, but they were both closed
shortly after the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000.
virtual embassy is the latest of a number of social media platforms the ministry
has developed to dialogue with the Arab and Muslim world. Its Facebook page in
Arabic has 264,000 “likes,” by far the most “likes” for its Facebook page in any
language. (The Persian page has 64,147 “likes,” following English, with 111,000
“likes.” The Hebrew page has only 10,368 “likes.”)