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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Arab paper interviews Ofir Gendelman of PM's office

Ofir Gendelman is the Israeli Prime Minister's spokesperson to the Arab media. He was interviewed by pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat. It mentions that he is 40 years old and learned Arabic in Haifa, starting in primary school and going on through college.

Excerpts:

* Why do you enjoy your job?

- Communicating with the Arab world is critical for me... I serve my country and my people, and serve the cause of peace.

* How?

- I do not limit myself to dealing with the Arab world through traditional media, but also with forums and social networks as well. I try to probe the depth of Arab societies, by giving a true picture of Israel not one that is superficial. I want to [combat] the distortions and lies that are published about us.

* Give us an example of that.

- Arabs in general put the Israeli and in one of three categories: soldier, settler, or religious. As you know, and I'm neither of them. I am not religious and I'm not a settler and I'm not a soldier, and I'm trying to say is that Israel is a state where there is a plurality of other characters, and I try to give a true picture of it.

* How do you find in yourself the ability to defend the policy of Netanyahu. This man is a hate figure among the Arabs in the world; from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf. He is seen only negatively.

- I think that the perception in the Arab world of our Prime Minister Netanyahu is the wrong impression. Wrong and very distorted. He actually wants to make peace with the Palestinians and other Arabs. And his position is constantly moving towards peace, [he has] accepted the principle of two states for two peoples.

* It is natural to defend him, you are his spokesperson. But this talk does not convince any Arabs. They only understand the results. Here we are approaching three years of his reign he did not further the peace process at all. On the contrary, the settlement and Judaization [has accelerated].

- I served under the three Israeli governments, led by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu, and I bear witness that there are no fundamental differences among them.

* Do you want to tell me that Netanyahu, who does not move a muscle, is like Olmert, [who offered] the withdrawal of the majority of the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital Jerusalem?

- Netanyahu focuses more on security issues, terrorism and the Iranian threat, because these are the fundamental concerns of Israeli society.

* And when you say this to the Arabs in the media or in social networks, how do they react?

- Responses are varied, there are supporters and opponents and [also] attacks and insults.

* In general, do you get more negative responses than positive or vice versa?

- The majority of responses are negative. But this is due to the accumulation of hostility and influence of the anti-Israel propaganda for years. There are also positive responses from people who understand our positions or parts of them. It is an important beginning.

Q: What is the volume of interest in the Arab world to hear your positions or the positions of Netanyahu?

- In the Arab media, it is always there. In cases of hot events, I've conducted many interviews, as many as 15.; during the Shalit deal I conducted interviews with 22 media outlets. As for the Facebook, the page opened by Prime Minister Netanyahuhas almost 6000 people from the Arab world. In Twitter there are 36 thousand.. In my page there are about 3,200 people.

* From the Arab countries?

- The majority are from Egypt, but there are people who communicated with us throughout the Arab world, including Syria, Yemen and the Gulf States and all of the Maghreb.

* Where do the insults come from, in particular?

- From Egypt. I have read insults and curses I have not heard of before, so I told them thanks, I have learned new words in colloquial Egyptian dialect.