The Foreign Ministry re-started a Twitter account directed toward users in the Persian Gulf countries that has laid dormant for more than four years, reflecting a refreshing new breeze blowing between Israel and at least some of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Unlike the initial account that was started in July of 2013, but has been inactive since December 2014, the re-upped version is in Arabic, not English.
“We are pleased to announce the re-launch of the ‘Israel in the Gulf’ page aimed at promoting dialogue between Israel and the Gulf States,” read the opening tweet posted on the page on Tuesday. “We hope that this virtual embassy will contribute to deepening understanding between the peoples of the Gulf States and the people of Israel in various fields.”
As of Saturday evening, the account already had 7,626 followers.
While the Foreign Ministry already has an Arabic language twitter account that has more than 200,000 followers, and an Arabic language facebook page with over 2 million followers, the idea behind this twitter feed is to provide content that will be of special interest to people in the Gulf States: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.
This is the second specialized Arabic social media account the Foreign Ministry has set up, following the establishment some six months ago of a Facebook page geared toward Iraq that already has some 100,000 followers.
The decision to open a Twitter account, not a Facebook page, for the Gulf States was made simply because Twitter is more popular than Facebook in the Gulf. Developing content for the @IsraelintheGCC Twitter page, however, is more difficult than finding content for the page geared toward Iraq, because while Jews had a long history in Iraq – which is highlighted often on that page – no such history of Jews in the GCC exists.
The Foreign Ministry also has a Farsi-language division that produces content for Iran, but getting the content across is trickier, since Iran blocks both Facebook and Twitter, and as such Instagram and Telegram are frequently used for this purpose.
The idea behind the Gulf account is to provide people in the Gulf States with a view of Israeli culture and society that they are not generally exposed to, with an emphasis on Israeli innovation.
The content will also deal with events taking place in those states – such as the visit to the UAE last week by a number of rabbis there for an interfaith dialogue with Pope Francis – as well as diplomatic issues.
Of the four tweets that followed the original introductory one posted on the account Tuesday, two dealt with rabbis visiting the UAE, and two with Israeli innovation.
The account is also expected to stress the common struggle against terrorism, and the common threat from Iran.
The relaunch of the Twitter account comes amid a series of babysteps that have taken place over the last year leading to greater normalization between Israel and the GCC countries. This includes Saudi Arabia’s consent to Air India flying over its airspace on the way to and from Israel and India; the Israeli judo team’s participation – under its own flag – in a championship competition in the UAE; and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s October visit to Oman.
The Foreign Ministry has no illusion that this account will “pave the way” toward formal relations with the Persian Gulf countries, but rather sees it as a channel of communication that could lead to a different view of Israel among certain segments of the public and add an additional level to what is happening quietly on diplomatic channels.