Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that the Prime Minister's Office has joined the social networking era, with it's own YouTube channel, and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

"Social media channels are today vital to Israeli public relations, government transparency and keeping the public informed," the prime minster's bureau said in a statement.

The Internet and especially online social networks have in recent years become an integral part of the political game, especially since the 2008 Presidential elections in the United States. Barack Obama gained wide popular support not only because his predecessor George Bush left the U.S. in a quagmire, but also due to a successful Internet campaign and social networking. The online campaign reached millions nationwide, conveying to them that Obama belongs to the Internet generation.

In fact Obama was so addicted to the Internet that he found it difficult to break away from his Blackberry after his election. After his triumph, numerous politicians worldwide, including Netanyahu, followed him into the Internet arena.

Netanyahu has already opened online network accounts in the past. He launched a Twitter account as part of his election campaign and his aides continue to update it. However, his Facebook page has been deleted for some reason.

Regrettably, Netanyahu's tweets consist of brief, uninteresting announcements. Most of them refer visitors to non-existing pages in the non-existent Facebook account.

The aims the prime minister listed - transparency, public relations and public information - may be commendable, but from the little seen so far, his office's new networks fall far short of achieving them. More importantly, the new services have not been made interactive and do not engage with surfers.

Netanyahu's current Facebook page consists of a series of press releases, in contrast to the deleted one which had evoked responses, at least after the Gaza-bound aid flotilla events.

Quite a few Israeli politicians and organizations understand that the Internet medium, unlike traditional communication channels, requires engagement with surfers. The Foreign Ministry's Twitter account, for example, has won considerable praise for its activity. It responds to surfers' comments from overseas, presenting the Israeli point of view.

A peek into MK Ahmed Tibi's (United Arab List ) tweets, which he maintains himself, shows brief comments on burning issues and referrals to articles. No less important - it has answers to surfers' questions.

The Hebrew website www.shituf.gov.il, intended to receive the public's responses to various cabinet issues, was recently constructed at the initiative of MK Michael Eitan (Likud ), the minister in charge of liaison with the public.

As for transparency, MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor ) has twice published on her website the Economics Arrangements Law, enabling the public to study it before the Knesset votes on it.

The Open Knesset (www.oknesset.org ) site, opened in the past year by Hamakor: Israeli Society for Free Software and Open-Source Code, is intended to enable surfers to read bills, see how each MK voted and read Knesset committees' protocols.