Netanyahu chats on Facebook with Arab world

PM spends 30 minutes in first-of-its kind live chat in an effort to use social media to deconstruct stereotypes about him and Israel.

January 31, 2012 03:56
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu  online

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with computer 390. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO))

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent 30 minutes Monday in a first-of-its kind live Facebook chat with Arabs from around the world in an effort to use social media to deconstruct stereotypes about him and Israel.

Ofir Gendelman, Netanyahu’s spokesman for the Arabic media who came up with the idea, translated the questions that came into Netanyahu’s Arabic Facebook page in real time, and then immediately typed in Arabic Netanyahu’s responses.

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According to Gendelman, about 700 people took part, including from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, the Palestinian Authority and North Africa. A number of Israeli Arabs also participated.

Gendelman said that while there were those who cursed Israel and Netanyahu during the chat, others urged for a civil dialogue.

Among the topics the questions dealt with were the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, Iran, Israel’s take on the Arab Spring, and Israel’s ties with other Arab countries.

One participant asked what Israel’s position was regarding relations with Saudi Arabia, and whether there was cooperation between the two countries.

“We have many common interests that we could advance regarding the economy and regional policy,” Netanyahu responded. “I also believe that Saudi Arabia, like us, sees that there is a great danger in the spread of terrorism by extremist elements. We expect that the Saudi regime, like others, will act against these dangerous forces” he said.

Asked about Israel’s opinion on the revolutions around the Arab world, Netanyahu responded that he expected a number of additional “severe jolts” and “major challenges” along the way.

“I know that increasing freedom within these countries will aid their prosperity. Increasing freedom of information could assist peace because at the moment, the Arab world still has stigmas and stereotypes about Israel that have no bearing on reality.”

Netanyahu broke no new ground on the Palestinian diplomatic peace issue, reiterating his willingness to immediately have talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. He pointed out that his policy of removing roadblocks in the West Bank has helped improve the economy there, and that he believed “economic peace is only a down payment, or introduction, to the diplomatic peace that we have to achieve.”

Regarding Iran, Netanyahu’s message was that a nuclear Iran was not only a threat to Israel and the West, but also to the Arab world. Iran, he said, was engaged in subversive activities throughout the region.

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