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.
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.
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
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
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
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