The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is heading for a new battleground: social media. In preparation for the long-awaited peace talks between Israel and Palestine beginning this Thursday in Washington, both sides are bringing the network effect to diplomacy.
In recent days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened up accounts on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube, reports the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF). According to a statement released by the PM's office, "Netanyahu has directed that these media be used during his upcoming trip to Washington in order to pass along updates and current information." And Netanyahu himself said, "Today, social media channels are more vital than ever for Israel's public diplomacy efforts, for administrative transparency and for providing citizens with updated information."
Palestine, too, plans to use online tools for the upcoming Mideast talks. According to Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Abed A-Nassar, chair of the Association of Palestinian Journalists, has called on Palestinian institutions to work toward adding a more pro-Palestinian voice to related Wikipedia pages. A-Nassar's comments followed the Israeli Yesha Council decision to provide workshops in the "Zionist editing" of Wikipedia entries.
The report points out that this isn't the first time Israel and Palestine have turned to social media to sway public perception. In May, Israel used Twitter and YouTube to argue its case following the raid of Gaza flotilla.
More and more nations are taking advantage of social media, which is increasingly becoming a tool to influence public opinion--or just polarize debate even further. The United States and North Korea, for example, have albeit indirect talks online, in what's becoming known as Twitter diplomacy.