Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he hopes to visit Qatar “one day” in an online conversation with an Al Jazeera anchor.
The remark was part of a live Twitter question-and-answer session hosted by the Israeli leader on Thursday under the hashtag #AskNetanyahu.
It came ahead of Israel marking the 68th anniversary of its founding today, a date Palestinians refer to as Al-Nakbah (catastrophe).
During the Twitter chat, Mehdi Hasan, who presents the shows Head to Head and UpFront on Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, joined the conversation to ask Netanyahu if he would appear on UpFront as a guest.
Dear @netanyahu, I've interviewed your justice & foreign ministers and your predecessor, too. Will you come on @AJUpFront too? #asknetanyahu
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) May 10, 2016
In what appeared to be an attempt at humor, the leader responded positively – adding that he also wanted FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi to join them.
I hope one day you’ll invite me to your headquarters in Qatar. Invite Messi too. https://t.co/9vzjjCWOkt
— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) May 12, 2016
However, Hasan pointed out that he is based in and presents his shows from Washington, DC in the US.
I'm in DC, not Qatar. On the subject of invites, when can come the Palestinian refugees come home pls? #AskNetanyahu https://t.co/rJ0UlBonpY
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) May 12, 2016
Netanyahu appeared to try to keep the tone of his tweets lighthearted, and talked about ties with African states and India, as well as his favorite Star Trek character.
However, the conversation inevitably focused on Palestine, and many criticized him for his country’s policies concerning Palestinians.
Netanyahu did not answer many of these questions.
While the press in Israel praised their leader’s “playful, conciliatory tone,” other media commentators called the chat a PR failure.
Netanyahu became Israel’s youngest-ever prime minister when he won the election in 1996 and served a three-year term before losing to Ehud Barak. He re-assumed office in 2009 and last March won his fourth term as PM.
After establishing trade relations between Qatar and Israel in 1996, these were severed in 2009 following Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and have yet to be reinstated.
However, sports teams from Israel do visit Qatar to take part in international competitions, albeit attracting criticism from some residents.
In April, Sean Faiga and Ariel Hilma made history when they became the first volleyball players to represent Israel in an Arab state, according to the Israeli Volleyball Association (IVA).
Athletes in other sports, including swimming and tennis, have previously represented the Jewish state in tournaments held in Qatar.