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Israel plans to recruit students for online diplomacy
Batsheva Sobelman
Los Angeles Times
August 14, 2013,0,2120157.story

JERUSALEM -- With diplomacy migrating to social media and young activists increasingly shaping policy, Israeli authorities intend to tap university students to bolster the country`s sagging image.

According to Israeli media reports Tuesday, the government plans to recruit hundreds of bilingual students for an online army of hasbara, a local term for public diplomacy, to launch counter-campaigns against critics of its policies.

As many as 550 bilingual students could join the project to post, tweet and blog pro-Israel content in return for scholarships and stipends.

The program will be run by the Prime Minister`s Office in coordination with the National Union of Israeli Students, who will screen and interview potential candidates.

But the students would not have to disclose the government`s involvement, thus making it look like an independent initiative.

`The idea requires that the state`s role not be highlighted,` would-be director of the new program, Daniel Seaman, wrote to the public tender committee, according to media reports.

The concept quickly drew criticism.

Fixing Israel`s image problem calls for a change in policy, not `dirty tricks,` said an editorial Wednesday in Haaretz. The daily newspaper also questioned whether Seaman, the past director of the government press office openly affiliated with the right-wing Likud party, was the best choice for overseeing public diplomacy.

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