Israel re-launches 'virtual embassy' to boost dialogue with Gulf countries

While Gulf leaders are inching closer to Israel, the people of that region will ultimately reject Israel, senior Palestinian official contends

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, September 26, 2018 (photo credit: GPO)
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, September 26, 2018
(photo credit: GPO)
Israel has announced it will reactivate its “virtual embassy” for Gulf countries which is essentially a Twitter account called ‘Israel in the Gulf’ launched for the first time in 2013 but then abruptly stopped in 2014.
The announcement was made on “Israel in Arabic,” a Twitter account in that language that is registered to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We hope that this virtual embassy will contribute to deepening understanding between the Gulf peoples and the people of Israel in various fields,” the ministry recently tweeted.
The social media post included pictures of prominent figures in Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Mohammed al-Mussafer, Professor of Political Science at Qatar University, told The Media Line that “this page serves to strengthen relations between an imported nation [Israeli Jews] from abroad and a country that has always been in the Middle East.
“There are already popular Gulf associations that have started normalizing ties with Israel,” he continued. “However, the challenge remains whether the people are going to accept it or not. I doubt that Gulf states would accept Israel while it commits crimes against the Palestinian people and the Islamic holy sites.”
The governments of Jordan and Egypt have signed peace agreements with Israel, but the people of those countries don’t accept Israelis or their country, al-Mussafer noted.
“Therefore, I don't think we as people in this region are going to stomach Israel even if our governments can. Five years ago, in a poll gauging support for normalizing relations between Qatar and Israel, over 85% of Qataris were against it.”
The Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry’s re-activation of the account comes on the backdrop of an unprecedented flurry of diplomatic activity on the part of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who recently visited Oman and sent a delegation of high-ranking officials to the UAE.
Obayd Saif, a political analyst based in Dubai, disagrees with al-Mussafer’s assessment, arguing that people in the region often fall in line with government policy and that UAE citizens, in particular, do not reject the initiative.
“It is completely up to Israel whether it’s ready for peace and to provide a solution for the Palestinian people,” he said, pointing out that Gulf states have no problem with Israel but that the creation of formal ties with the Jewish state hinges on resolving the conflict with the Palestinians.
Omar Abdullah, a senior official at the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Media Line that the Israeli Twitter initiative for Gulf will fail.
“No matter how much Israel tries with some ‘officials’ in the Gulf region—who would accept normalization only to serve their personal interests—people there won’t accept Israel as an occupying force that violates the Palestinian people on a daily basis.”
The real aim of the Twitter account is to spread Israeli propaganda, he asserted, adding that “at the end of the day these Gulf nations would never accept Israel if the Palestinian nation is suffering.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states have shared interests with Israel, especially regarding the effort to forge a united front against Shiite Iran’s regional ambitions. These warming strategic ties have translated into tangible benefits, as evidenced by Riyadh’s agreement last year to open for the first time its airspace for three weekly commercial flights from New Delhi to Tel Aviv.
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