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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

PM of Israel/Twitter

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

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 .

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.

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.

However, Hasan pointed out that he is based in and presents his shows from Washington, DC in the US.

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.

PR fail

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.

Israel's Ariel Hilman at this week's Qatar Open beach volleyball tournament

FIVB

Israel’s Ariel Hilman at Qatar Open beach volleyball tournament

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.

Thoughts?

Egypt court sentences two Al Jazeera employees to death in absentia

Six people, including two Al Jazeera staffers, have been handed death sentences in Egypt for allegedly leaking state secrets to Qatar. They are Alaa Omar Mohammed Sablan and former director of news of Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel Ibrahim Mohamed Helal.

Helal slammed the verdict yesterday, calling it politically motivated, adding there was no appeal process. Al Jazeera also received the verdict “with shock, agitation and condemnation.”

Qatar-based Al Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau closed by authorities

Iraqi authorities have once again closed Al Jazeera Media Network’s Baghdad office, saying the channel was inciting violence and sectarianism. Al Jazeera reported the news earlier this week, a month after Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission sent the company a letter saying its journalists were prohibited from working in the country.

The network said it was “shocked and bewildered” by the decision and plans to continue covering Iraq-related news. The Baghdad bureau has been closed by authorities before, and once was even bombed by US forces, killing a journalist.