Utilizing new media technology, Israel is developing innovative ways to extend hands of friendship to countries in a volatile Middle East.
“We are exploring government, people and societies … trying to skip over the borders and using the new media to create virtual embassies,” which speak directly to those in the Arab world, said Foreign Ministry director-general, Rafael Barak, at the inaugural ceremony of the 13th annual Herzliya Conference on Monday, March 11.
Addressing the regional trends impacting Israel, Barak related that “we live in a region in a state of constant instability and it is our assessment that this instability will continue for many more years.” Despite this, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to locate potential friends in the region, while trying to find “frenemies” among Israel’s enemies and exploring how different governments relate to one another.
Barak remarked that the Israel must not only be aware of the threats that exist in the region, but also of certain population sectors that seek friendship. “We must contend with the people around us, looking at the new strategic threats, including the large concentration of chemical weapons in Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas activity, as well as Kurdish populations and other minorities looking for our friendship and trying to draw close to Israel,” he stated.
Regionally, “the characteristics of peace have almost disappeared” said Barak. However, he stressed that the situation with Jordan was better, noting that Israel has an embassy there and is “doing a lot of things with visibility… and under the radar.”
“We always look for opportunities [in the region] … We hope an opportunity will come from Syria…[and] are trying to open doors wherever possible and provide humanitarian assistance wherever possible.”
In regard to the situation in Egypt, Barak emphasized the necessity for Israel to “maintain peace agreements with Egypt in light of the instability and internal situation.” He said that the Foreign Ministry was maintaining a “mobile ministry” which traveled to and from Egypt weekly, rather than maintaining a permanent embassy in an unstable and dangerous area.
Regarding the Palestinian issue, Barak said “the Palestinians are looking for the international stage and we are being challenged there … we are preparing for the future.” He added that the ministry was “active in international forums so that the world will receive our activities with understanding … we’re trying to prevent flotillas and flightillas.”