Jerusalem, Jan. 31 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out his vision for peace in the Middle East during a live ‘chat’ Monday with the Arab world, via the social media website Facebook.
Using an Arab translator from his staff who typed his answers in real time, Netanyahu faced a flood of questions and comments from Internet surfers across the Middle East during the hour-long chat on his Arabic Facebook page. The conversation focused on peace with the Palestinians, the ‘Arab Spring’ and Iran’s nuclear program.
Referring to the Israeli-Palestinian talks held in Jordan this month, Netanyahu said: “We are totally serious about our talks with the Palestinians: I am ready to go to Ramallah to negotiate with (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas. Moving forward with negotiations is the only way to peace, and the Israeli people want peace. We need peace, and we need a Palestinian state that will live in peace with us. I hope that Abbas will seize the opportunity.”
The session took place just days after the Palestinian Authority walked out of talks with Israel. The Palestinians have effectively closed the door on the international push to reach a negotiated agreement this year.
Netanyahu also addressed the Iranian issue, saying "Iran is developing nuclear weapons in order to control the entire Middle East and beyond. This is a direct threat to peace." He said that the government of Israel fully supports European and American sanctions on Tehran, but wants to see their swift implementation.
Answering a question about Israel and the Arab spring, the prime minister expressed support for democracy and human rights in the region: “We want to see democracy in the Arab world and we hope it will happen. There are many false views about Israel in the Arab world - many Arabs are unaware that Arab Israelis sit as members of the Israeli parliament and the government and they enjoy full rights. There is a misconception regarding Israel’s will to have peace. This is why I’m talking to you over the Internet, and inviting you to come and visit us. Everyone who visited us in the past changed his view.”
Netanyahu has embraced the Internet as a platform to engage with communities around the world. Last year he hosted a live chat on the video website Youtube. His Facebook page in Arabic has more than 20,000 ‘likes’.
The Facebook event was reported by The Israel Project's (TIP) Arabic Media Program, which works to open communications with the Arab world and promote peace with Israel. TIP’s Arabic language website and Facebook page in Arabic provide the Arab world with the facts and sources they need to enable hundreds of millions of Arab readers and viewers to hear and see the real Israel.