A people-to-people relationship

It is my hope, both as a civil servant and as a citizen, that while our leaders work to improve the ties between our two nations, these 21st-century efforts serve to strengthen the relationship between the Israeli and American peoples.

By DANIEL SEAMAN
March 20, 2013 15:40
2 minute read.
US President Barack Obama lands in Israel

obama lands 390. (photo credit: GPO / Moshe Milner)

The visit by the president of the United States to Israel has always been an occasion to celebrate the special relationship between the two countries. It is an opportunity to mark the values and principles we have in common while expressing our appreciation for the political, diplomatic and military support given to us by the American people and leaders.

Perhaps more important, it is also a chance for Israel to emphasize its contributions to the partnership with the United States. The visit brings with it international media attention that can be utilized to highlight aspects of the country that routinely do not get enough attention.

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What President Obama refers to as “the unbreakable bond” is not just a connection between the leaders of the two nations, but first and foremost a relationship between the countries’ peoples.

Today, connecting between people and establishing dialogue is the key to influencing relationships.

Broadly speaking, public diplomacy, or people’s diplomacy as it is commonly called, is the communication with foreign publics to establish a dialogue designed to inform and influence. Due to its extraordinary circumstances, Israel has produced its own unique brand of public diplomacy in order to be actively involved and directly participate in the government’s efforts to convey its messages to foreign audiences.

A crucial element in doing so is the use of social media platforms, where the citizens lead the public diplomacy efforts. The state encourages participation, capitalizes on the public’s ingenuity and gives guidance to the public debate.

This formula was proven to be productive and highly successful during the last round of violence along the Gaza border last November, and has since become the foundation for the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry’s activities in major national public relations operations.

For the visit of President Obama, the ministry, with the assistance of many dedicated volunteers, has created social media platforms dedicated to emphasizing the bond between the peoples of Israel and the United States. Rather than the rhetoric of Israel’s elected officials, these platforms represent the voice of its citizens.

The sites on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest will provide information leading up to the visit, along with location details, images and stories.

While the visit is in progress, the volunteers will work out of the media center being set up specifically for this occasion by the Government Press Office. There, they will be connected to the government operations room while providing up-to-theminute updates on the visit from the perspective of the Israeli public.

It is my hope, both as a civil servant and as a citizen, that while our leaders work to improve the ties between our two nations, these 21st-century efforts serve to strengthen the relationship between the Israeli and American peoples.

The writer is the deputy director-general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.


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