WASHINGTON – The government intends to turn the social network Facebook into the main platform for Israeli online public relations, investing a lot of resources on creating an efficient strategy to utilize the 600 million-large' network.
Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon visited the California offices of the network on Friday, and met with company heads including Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and VP of Advertising and Global Operations David Fischer, who is the son of Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer.
The Foreign Ministry is set on turning the famous social network into the main platform for Israeli online public relations both in English and in Arabic. Officials in Jerusalem have expressed their belief that Facebook is a friendly platform for communication with young people around the world, allowing for distribution of messages through video clips and games.
Israeli embassies around the world have already begun to manage Facebook pages, but now the Foreign Ministry intends to make more efficient use of the network to improve Israel's image.
Ayalon's meetings are intended to foster a relationship between the Israeli government and Facebook heads. Ayalon has also invited Facebook managers to visit Israel in order to meet with internet entrepreneurs and participate in the Presidential Conference expected to take place in Jerusalem next June.
The deputy foreign minister displayed before them Israel's high-tech abilities, noting that Intel Company is the biggest private employer in Israel, with more than 7,000 employees.
Following Facebook's slow response in closing the internet page calling for a "third Intifada" and a violent protest against Israel, Facebook managers clarified that in the future they intend to deactivate any pages preaching violence. They also stated Facebook plans to open a marketing center in Israel.
Face to face with Israel's critics
The United States' government is already cooperating with major internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to develop media tools intended to reach citizens around the world, especially in developing communities. Young Egyptians, for example, were part of a program advertised by the State Department online. These youths later organized protests in their country via Facebook.
Ayalon met with California Governor Jerry Brown and told him that due to a travel warning issued by California to Israel there are currently no student exchanges between Israeli and Californian universities.
Ayalon mentioned that these programs, with leading universities such as Stanford and Berkley, are a crucial tool for acknowledging and learning about Israel's reality. Brown responded that he will act to cancel the orders.
As he left the meeting Ayalon ran into an anti-Israel protest, experiencing first-hand the great objection against Israel and its policies. He approached demonstrators, who were holding posters demanding the US government stop funding Israel "because of the occupation", and attempted to speak with them. This rare dialogue caught the attention of those passing by, some of whom expressed their support of Ayalon.
Ronen Medzini contributed to this report
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