Friday, March 09, 2012

Israeli President Shimon Peres Wants Friends

At no point in history was the Hebrew word for "friend" more popular than after President Bill Clinton uttered those two famous words as he eulogized his assassinated friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem in 1995. "Shalom Chaver" quickly became a famous slogan and bumper sticker quote.

Now, one man who was Yitzhak Rabin's friend, colleague and peace partner is campaigning for chaverim, friends. Not real friends, but Facebook fans. On the same day he delivered a very well-received speech to close to 13,000 pro-Israel supporters at AIPAC Policy Conference on Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres launched his new Facebook page.

President Peres has had a very good week. After AIPAC honored the 88-year-old leader on Sunday for his storied career in Israeli politics and for his lasting commitment to peace, he met privately with President Obama. During his AIPAC appearance Peres found a very supportive audience who saluted him with many standing ovations. All this week Shimon Peres has been on a tour of the Bay Area where he's meeting with hi-tech leaders of Silicon Valley.

His California itinerary includes meetings with leading venture capitalists, as well as with Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. During his meeting with the Facebook founder, President Peres launched his official personal page on the Facebook site. While Peres might not be the first 88-year-old with a Facebook account, he is the first one whose chief agenda is to use his Facebook page to create a dialogue with Arabs who live in countries that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg interviewed the Israeli President about his Facebook ambitions and he explained,  "The matter of peace is no longer the business of governments but the business of people. Today the people are governing the governments. And when they begin to talk to each other, they are surprised: We should be friends."

So, how he is Shimon Peres seeking to make friends on the social networking site? Rather than giving away a free iPad as many businesses do when they launch a new Facebook page, Peres released a new YouTube music video (see below) asking everyone to be his friend on Facebook in the name of peace. The video was launched last Sunday as Peres was speaking at AIPAC. I'm certain this video will go viral because, well, the sight of an 88-year-old rock star who happens to be the president of the Jewish state is "must see TV." Peres, with his iconic deep Israeli accent, has become a beloved father figure to the Israeli people. It is remarkable to see him so eager to exploit social media in the name of forging a lasting peace in the Middle East. I wish him well... and I hope that he gets a lot of friends to join him on Facebook.

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