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A Virtual Verbal Volley

Viewers of Thailand’s Channel 9 were treated to an unlikely spectacle Monday night: a debate between Israeli ambassador Yael Rubinstein and her Iranian counterpart, Mohsen Pakein.

Even though their countries continue to have no formal relations and appear headed toward a direct military confrontation, Rubinstein and Pakein argued over the raging conflict between Israeli forces and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite militia supported by Iran.

So it seemed.

As it turned out, the Iranian diplomat had refused to sit face to face with Israel’s ambassador. So, as popular Thai television host Suthichai Yoon explained with a smile at the beginning of the program, the two participants were interviewed separately and then their answers were edited to provide viewers with what appeared to be a back and forth debate.

The two diplomats also have been debating in Thai newspapers, including dueling columns in The Nation, an English-language daily. That exchange drew many letters for and against Israel, including angry notes from Israeli leftwingers attributing negative motives to their government back at home.

Many Thais watched the televised debate. Tik Sampon, 29, a marketing manager in a Thai silk factory, offered a mixed review: “The issue is interesting but too far for me,” she said. “I just want the oil prices to be stable.”




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