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July 24, 2013 10:06 am

Israel Opens ‘Virtual Embassy’ for Persian Gulf; Exports $500 Million Annually to GCC

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"Israel in the GCC," the Israel Foreign Ministry's "Virtual Embassy" for the Persian Gulf. Photo: Screenshot.

"Israel in the GCC," the Israel Foreign Ministry's "Virtual Embassy" for the Persian Gulf. Photo: Screenshot.

Financial Times – Israel has opened a “virtual embassy” to reach out to the citizens of the Gulf, where clandestine business ties between the Jewish state and the six members of the Gulf Co-operation Council have emerged over the past decade despite the absence of diplomatic relations. The Israeli foreign ministry has launched a Twitter account describing itself as the official channel of the “virtual Israeli embassy to GCC countries” and encourages its followers to leave comments. GCC members – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain – have banned trade with Israel and generally bar its citizens from entry.

Despite this, Israeli exports to the GCC are now worth about $500m per year, although all are made through third party countries making them difficult to track, according to Yitzhak Gal, professor of political economy at Tel Aviv University. “We decided [the virtual embassy] would be a very good tool to engage in a dialogue with people from the GCC,” said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the foreign ministry and one of those running the Twitter account.

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