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.