The past three weeks have demonstrated yet again that Israel is one of the world’s most important diplomatic hubs. As the violent confrontation between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate, diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire between the two sides have brought to the region numerous high ranking diplomats including the UN Secretary General, US Secretary of State John Kerry and the French, British and German foreign ministers. The negotiations between Israel and Hamas have also promoted action from numerous countries including Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the US, Germany and France. Israel’s status as a diplomatic hub is exemplified by the fact that there are currently more than eighty two foreign embassies and missions in Israel.
Yet despite its diplomatic importance, the digital diplomacy network in Israel is rather limited. Of the eighty two embassies and missions in Israel only eleven have active twitter accounts and only twelve are active on Facebook. This figure is even more surprising given the fact that Israel’s MFA is one of the most active ministries on twitter and Facebook and its social media channels serve as important sources of information with regard to Israeli foreign and domestic policy.
Currently, the embassies that are active on twitter are the UK, EU, US, Canada, Netherlands, Greece, Poland, Sweden, France, Norway, Spain and Australia. While the social network of foreign embassies to Israel is rather small it is highly a connected one as can be seen in the image below.
The most popular embassy within the social network of foreign embassies to Israel is the EU which is followed by eight other embassies. The second most popular embassy is the UK followed by the US, Canada, Netherlands, Greece, Poland, Sweden, France, Norway, Spain and Australia.
The most active embassies in this network are the EU, Netherlands and Norway which follow all other embassies active on twitter. These are followed by France, Greece, Australia, Spain, the UK, US, Poland and Canada which only follows the American embassy.
When attempting to analyze the social network of foreign embassies to a given country it is imperative to take into account the local foreign ministry. If the ministry is followed by other embassies it is able to effectively disseminate foreign policy messages to other countries. Moreover, if it follows foreign embassies’ digital diplomacy channels, the local MFA can gather information regarding foreign policy initiatives of other countries. In the case of Israel, the Israeli MFA is located at the very heart of the local diplomatic social network as can be seen in the image below.
It is also important to note that the MFA is followed by all foreign embassies active on twitter. Even more importantly, the MFA has the second heights in-betweens score in the network meaning that it can effectively and quickly disseminate foreign policy messages throughout the entire network. However, despite its centrality, the Israeli foreign ministry actively follows only five foreign embassies which may hinder its ability to gather relevant information.
As can be seen below, there is a large gap in the volume of twitter activity between the foreign embassies in Israel. While the US has posted more than 10,000 tweets, the majority of embassies have posted less than 500 tweets.
It is possible that this lack of activity is a result of the fact that twitter is not very popular in Israel. Currently, there are some four million Israeli Facebook users as opposed to only two hundred thousand twitter users. As can be seen in the table below, while the US embassy has some nineteen thousand followers, most embassies have less than a thousand followers.
However, most Israeli politicians, ministries and NGOs are active on twitter as are Israeli journalists and news organizations. Israeli journalists routinely canvas the local diplomatic tweetosphere in order to complement their stories. Likewise, twitter is steadily gaining popularity in Israel as younger audiences have begun to migrate from Facebook to twitter. Thus, a foreign embassy looking to disseminate and gather information and engage with Israelis must be active on twitter as well as Facebook.
Finally, it is interesting to find that countries that are at the forefront of digital diplomacy, such as Russia and Germany, are not active at all in Israel. This finding represents a gap that currently exists between digital diplomacy at the ministry level and the embassy level. It is fair to assume that as more and more diplomats realize the importance and potential of digital diplomacy this gap will gradually disappear.