Dubai: The Israeli foreign ministry has opened its first “virtual embassy” – a Twitter account targeting citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the hope of opening channels for dialogue with the people of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.
The new Twitter page is called ‘Israel in the GCC’ and it hopes to “open lines of dialogue” with Gulf states.
The official responsible for operating it is Yoram Morad — Director of the Department of Digital Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz. He is primarily involved with cultural affairs at the ministry and is not involved in high-level policy-making diplomacy.
The page appears to be detached from any other clandestine talks that may be taking place between Israel and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Israel currently does not have official diplomatic relations with any Gulf state. However, it was revealed in May that the country had secretly opened a diplomatic mission in a Gulf state. The revelation was made when an economic plan submitted by the country’s finance ministry listed an office in a Gulf state as one of 11 new diplomatic missions established in 2012. Israel refused to comment on the matter.
This Twitter gesture is part of an outreach campaign towards Gulf states, and was launched ahead of a possible round of Israeli-Palestinian talks in the coming days. While this public page will mostly run a low-level cultural platform aimed at people-to-people relations, efforts to reach out to the GCC governments are likely to be made behind closed doors and through clandestine meetings — with the talks presumably highlighting mutual security concerns relating to Iran, which is perceived to be a common threat to Israel and the GCC.
WikiLeaks cables released in 2010 reveal snippets of that relationship through references to secret meetings held between Israeli diplomats and high-level Gulf officials, including those that had severed ties to the country. Qatar and Oman had established relations with Israel in the mid-1990s. Oman broke off those relations during the Second Palestinian Indtifada in 2000, and Qatar broke them during Israel’s war on Gaza in 2009.