Israel reactivated their “virtual embassy” on Tuesday, a program aimed at encouraging dialogue with the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – all Arab states of the Persian Gulf except Iraq.
The embassy functions through a foreign ministry-run Twitter account named “Israel in the GCC.” The account was originally launched in July 2013 and had a seven-month run before ceasing operations.
يسرنا أن نعلن عن إعادة إطلاق صفحة “إسرائيل في الخليج” بهدف تعزيز الحوار بين إسرائيل وشعوب الخليج. نأمل أن تسهم هذه السفارة الافتراضية في تعميق التفاهم بين شعوب دول الخليج وشعب إسرائيل في مختلف المجالات pic.twitter.com/eaoLyc8fJm
— إسرائيل في الخليج (@IsraelintheGCC) February 5, 2019
“We are pleased to announce the re-launch of the ‘Israel in the Gulf’ page aimed at promoting dialogue between Israel and the Gulf peoples,” the government ministry said in a tweet.
It continued, “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.”
The virtual embassy was originally the creation of Gary Koren, the current Israeli ambassador to Russia and former special projects coordinator at the ministry’s director general’s office, according to Haaretz.
The account is operated by the ministry’s public diplomacy department under the guidance of the director general’s office.
Ofir Gendelman, spokesperson to the Arab media for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made a plea on his own account for Gulf followers to follow the page in accordance with the relaunch.
إلى المتابعين الخليجيين الأعزاء، تابعوا هذا الحساب المخصص لكم والموجه إليكم بهدف توسيع رقعة الحوار بيننا وبينكم. https://t.co/QzFXhY3tkd
— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) February 5, 2019
“To our dear Gulf followers, follow this account, which is intended for you to broaden the dialogue between us and you,” he tweeted in Arabic.
While Israel does not currently have public diplomatic relations with any member of the Council, the nations have found a common interest in recent years: defending against the Iranian nuclear threat.
Netanyahu has stressed the importance of growing Arab-Israeli relations over the past year, a sentiment that has been accompanied by a string of visits to the Persian Gulf by top Israeli government officials.
Israeli Minister of Culture and Sports, Miri Regev, recently attended a judo tournament in U.A.E. capital Abu Dhabi, and Communications Minister Ayoob Kara delivered a speech at a telecommunications conference in Dubai in October, according to Al-Jazeera.
Netanyahu also took a trip to the Gulf in October when he met with Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said to discuss peace initiatives in the Middle East, according to Reuters.
“Israel in the GCC” is reminiscent of other such efforts to utilize technology as a means of advancing diplomacy in the modern age, such as a 2011 U.S. State Department initiative to open a line of communication with the Iranian people.
The “U.S. Virtual Embassy to Iran” has since grown to include a “variety of online properties,” according to the embassy’s government-run website.
Israel will strive to achieve similar success with their re-launch, as the government looks to make inroads through their recent public entrance to the Gulf theater.