Jewish Journal

Like Obama: If I could Bibi like Barack

by Brad A. Greenberg

November 17, 2008 | 8:29 pm

I can’t imagine Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu have much in common politically and certainly not in regards to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (See: Reports that Obama supports the Arab Peace Plan.) But Bibi does seem to be a fan of at least Obama’s emphasis on using social media and the Internet to connect with voters.

Most stunning is how much Netanyahu’s Web site looks like it was designed by the folks who did Obama’s. (It was not.) Bibi is also trying to make his presence known on social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Sani Sanilevich, who is managing Mr. Netanyahu’s Internet campaign, said the Web was one of the biggest focuses of the campaign, and with good reason.

“The main advantage of the Internet is the ability to communicate with citizens and people directly,” he said. “You can actually hear them and get them involved in this campaign. The whole idea is, together we can succeed.”

The phrase “Together we can succeed” is the campaign slogan on the Netanyahu site, and it echoes, to some extent, Mr. Obama’s “Yes we can.” Mr. Sanilevich said the Netanyahu campaign plans to make use of Twitter, the mass text-messaging service that sends out short “tweets.”

“There are a couple thousand in Israel on Twitter,” he said. “We have lots of people using the Web sites registered as volunteers, and I am sure we will be able to use Twitter, which is an amazing tool. I have it on my phone, and I go around with Bibi and everywhere we go he gives me things to say on Twitter.”

Netanyahu aides say direct communication with voters is important for many reasons; one of them is their belief that Israel’s mainstream news outlets are not sympathetic to the candidate, and he needs to go around them.

The campaign said that like the Obama operation, it would bombard its supporters with messages for volunteering and donating and set up a site where supporters could communicate with one another without the campaign’s direct involvement.

Indeed, before I read this article in The New York Times I had begun following Bibi on Twitter, though he tweets mostly in a language I can’t read. It’s amazing that a far-right politician in Israel can figure out how to use the Internet but the Republican Party for the second presidential election in a row was left looking like they still write letters on typewriters. In fact, John McCain just might.

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