Foreign Ministry official to hold ‘meeting’ in Israel’s virtual Persian Gulf embassy

Senior Israeli diplomat to hold Twitter chat with Gulf residents in unusual direct and public channel of communication.

Israeli virtual Persian Gulf embassy 370 (photo credit: Twitter)
Israeli virtual Persian Gulf embassy 370
(photo credit: Twitter)
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 eye.
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 Bahrain.
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) #EidTalk.”
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 all muslims.”
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 Gulf.
Officials from the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office would not, however, reveal where it was established.
Israel maintained 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.
The 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.”)