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Matthew Gould, the British Ambassador to the State of Israel, delivered JPR's annual Morris and Manja Leigh Memorial Lecture in November on the topic of UK-Israel relations.
Speaking at the event, which was hosted by international law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner and chaired by Lord Leigh of Hurley, Ambassador Gould outlined his view of UK-Israel relations after four years in Tel Aviv.
He highlighted the close ties between the two countries in the areas of trade, science, technology and security, and noted that "the British Government has shown it really means it when it says that it sees Israel as a partner and a friend." He further maintained that existing data demonstrates that efforts to boycott Israel are "not damaging trade, technology or academic cooperation."
Nonetheless, Gould said that he is worried. He argued that Israel is "losing the elite centre ground" of public and political opinion in the UK, and this trend is likely to continue if no further progress is made towards peace. The issue, claimed Gould, is not about Israeli "hasbara" - Israel is as effectively represented by very highly skilled diplomats as any country in the world - but rather the lack of progress towards a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians. "No hasbara could have softened the blow of the pictures from the summer" said Gould, and "no hasbara will make Brits think that settlement building is ok."
A more detailed write-up of the event will be posted here next week. For JC coverage, click here
(Matthew Gould is the first Jewish Ambassador that Britain has sent to Israel. He previously served as Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary (both David Miliband and William Hague). Before that he worked briefly as Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs for Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown. He has had four diplomatic postings overseas in Washington, Iran, Pakistan and Manila).