Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon turned to Facebook Tuesday night, transforming the social network platform typically used for cute notes among friends into the forefront of the media battle with the Palestinians for the hearts and minds of the international community.
The live, half-hour question- and-answer session he held with worldwide users was the latest in a series of steps the Foreign Ministry has taken to defend Israel on the Internet and to educate supporters all around the world to do the same.
“We have to create Israel defenders,” Ayalon told the Internet audience.
Earlier in the day, he told pro-Israel activists at the Foreign Ministry that the Internet was a critical tool in the new Israeli-Palestinian public relations war.
The Palestinian Authority has replaced military warfare with political tactics dedicated to defaming Israel and delegitimizing it in the international arena, Ayalon said.
“They [the PA] tried to take us on militarily and they couldn’t, then economically...and then with terror. Now the [battle] front is the political and legal warfare,” he told activists in the oneday seminar sponsored by the Foreign Ministry, called “Israel’s Upcoming Public Diplomacy Challenge.”
“We have to understand that we are facing a very dedicated enemy,” he added, saying it was making use of the Internet and non-government human rights organizations in a very sophisticated way.
If this delegitimization continues, “it will become an obstacle to peace,” he declared.
“If you try and paint Israel into a corner, there is no incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate” because “they believe that someone else will do the job for them,” he said.
To fight this dangerous delegitimization, Israel also needs a network that goes well beyond governmental institutions, he continued, declaring that in the 21st century, an entire community had to band together to tackle its problems.
The government can be supportive in terms of financing and information, but “we cannot do it alone,” he said.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post on the sidelines of the conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the ministry was making use of all the Web tools available, including Twitter and YouTube.
“Five years ago it would not have occurred to us that we needed a Facebook page” or that a press conference could be held on it, Palmor said.
“Now we are veterans of this technique,” he went on, boasting that his ministry had been the first one in the world to host such an event earlier this year.
The ministry, he said, was seeking other Web ideas for spreading Israel’s message.
“Today we need to deal with globalized information and globalized
spokesmanship. It happens fast. You need to be permanently on the alert
if you want to be there [and to be heard],” said Palmor.
Journalism, he said, was more global than he could ever have dreamed.
“When a Spanish newspaper carries an interview with a renowned Holocaust
denier, I will get a phone call from a Polish journalist in Warsaw who
wants me to make comments,” said Palmor.