Israel's Foreign Ministry Gives Envoys a Lesson on Twitter Diplomacy

Recent embarrassing Facebook and Twitter posts prompt Foreign Ministry to update social media guidelines for Israeli diplomats around the world.


Israel’s Foreign Ministry updated online social media guidelines for representatives of the State of Israel worldwide, following a few recent unusual tweets and Facebook posts made by Israeli diplomats. The Foreign Ministry’s message to Israeli diplomats: Surfers on the web take everything you post as Israel’s official position.

Earlier this week, Yoram Murad, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Digitial Diplomacy Department sent a message to Israeli diplomats both in the country and abroad, entitled, “What is the difference between a press briefing and a tweet?” The answer was made clear in first line of the message “As far as you’re concerned, there is no difference,” wrote Murad.

Many Israeli diplomats, primarily ambassadors and embassy spokespeople, use Facebook and Twitter accounts to publicize various policy statements or links to articles concerning Israel or the Middle East. Contrary to the United States’ State Department, where Twitter and Facebook use is already highly institutionalized, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s use of social media is still in its infancy.

“Although prior to publication, most of you have internalized the fact that there is no difference between a tweet and a press briefing, a few isolated incidences have generated the need for us to clarify guidelines,” wrote Murad in a message to Israeli diplomats.

“Remember that from the moment you publish a message online, there is no difference between what you’ve written and a public declaration – both of them constitute a statement from an Israeli official, or an official position of the State of Israel,” continued Murad.

Twitter usage in particular received special attention in the new guidelines for Israeli diplomats. “In terms of Twitter, special attention is required, as for some time now, Twitter has become the primary source of information for many journalists and media outlets, wrote Murad.

“It’s safe to assume that all of your posts are sent straight to the inboxes of up-to-date journalists– they don’t even need to search for them,” continued Murad.

Currently, the Foreign Ministry has been working diligently to compile a “modern media guide,” containing a “combat doctrine” for ministry officials pertaining to online social media. The objective is to convince as many Israeli diplomats as possible to open Facebook and Twitter accounts and use them for informing and influencing public opinion. The guide will include detailed guidelines, as well as “dos and don’ts” for social media.

Over the last few weeks, there have been a few embarrassing moments caused by tweets and Facebook posts made by Israeli diplomats. For example, the Israeli embassy in Dublin used its twitter account to attack MK Haneen Zoabi, during a recent visit to Ireland.

Zoabi gave a few lectures, and granted interviews to Irish media outlets, in which she claimed that Israel is a racist, undemocratic state. Following publication of her comments, the Israeli Embassy in Dublin responded with three tweets, that criticized MK Zoabi, despite the fact that she is an elected official.

“This particular MK consorted on #MaviMarmara with IHH jihadists who sang of killing Jews, who are sworn to destroy #Israel #Zoabi,” read one of the tweets.
A second tweet included a link to a YouTube in which Zoabi spoke about the Mavi Marmara raid alongside armed Turkish activists, “And she's still in Parliament! MK Haneen #Zoabi with armed #IHH jihadists on #MaviMarmara 2010”

The third called for inquiries into Zoabi’s relatives in various positions of government. “If you hear MK #Zoabi tonight #Dublin: ask her re her 2 uncles, 1 a Supreme Court judge, 1 a dep Min of Health + Nazareth mayor!”