Since beginning my job in the Knesset, I have been approached by dozens of people and organizations seeking “access” to Members of Knesset. They always ask for the same thing: Advice on how best to approach MKs, and whether I would help present their cause myself.
My response is the same each time: You don’t need Knesset “insiders” to speak directly to your MKs.
This is truer than ever as the Knesset gears up for the summer session and the country is awash in rumors of impending elections. Whether you want to protest, complain or campaign, you should make sure to make your case where the MK will hear it.
You probably won’t get far by writing a letter, sending an email, making a phone call or sending a fax (yes, people still send faxes, especially senior citizens). The average MK’s office is structured to cushion the MK from the unwanted advances of the opinionated public. Each day, MKs receive hundreds of letters, emails and phone calls, which are answered by aides whose job it is to screen them.
But there is one arena where the MKs are listening, responding directly and even soliciting advice and assistance from the general public. If you guessed it right, then you already know something important about Israelis: they love Facebook.
Most Israeli politicians I know won’t surrender their Facebook page to any underling. Even Yair Lapid, not yet a professional politician, is already communicating with the public solely through Facebook – and insists on managing his Facebook page personally or with the help of his son. Only when the number of questions and expressions of support and criticism grew into the thousands each day did he consider bringing in professional communicators to help with the effort.
Facebook has several advantages for an MK wishing to speak to the public. It is open to all, free and easy to use. MKs are easy to find – just search their names. The MK’s page can host conversations in all the languages spoken by Israelis: Hebrew, English, Russian, Arabic, and more – sometimes simultaneously.
Facebook is also ideal for getting the message out. MKs can easily and quickly send comments, pictures, videos, interviews and articles they care about to followers, supporters and opponents. Some MKs have learned how to do this from their cellphones – in the case of Carmel Shama Hacohen, live while chairing meetings of the Knesset Economics Committee. They can link to, follow and respond to the discussions of other MKs, journalists or social activists. Each comment or picture can spawn a whole new conversation in the comments beneath, and any interested voters can also start a new conversation at any time.
Crucially, members of the public can also send private messages for the MK’s eyes only, and – no less important for a public figure – any comment or person can be removed and blocked from the MK’s page completely.
So it’s no wonder the MKs have discovered that Facebook’s unique structure, in which a single individual can manage a large amount of traffic easily and efficiently, is ideal for communicating with the public.
It’s worth noting that these “Facebook MKs” don’t belong to a particular age, sex or political orientation. They include David Rotem, Carmel Shama Hacohen, Ze’ev Elkin, Shelly Yacimovich, Einat Wilf, Michael Eitan and Ahmad Tibi.
So, my fellow Israelis, the MKs are listening as no previous generation of Israeli leaders has listened. Now the question is: What do you want to say to them?