Israel’s ambassador to the UK this week spoke of a “growing alignment” between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours, urging the influential London audience to temper its expectations and adjust its preconceptions.
Outgoing envoy Daniel Taub, who used his Monday address to praise the record levels of trade and co-operation between Israel and the UK, nevertheless said a change of thinking may be required on the Middle East. “Sometimes we come with a certain amount of assumptions and I think now is the time to start and re-consider some of them,” he said.
In his last major address to the UK Jewish community, Taub said the past five years had proved a cautionary tale and urged a “certain amount of humility about what we think we know… and about how much we can influence in the region”.
He said: “We find ourselves in the position of the Jewish jury in the trial of the ruthless mafia boss. After retiring to consider its position, the jury finally returns. The judge asks: ‘How have you decided?’ The foreman says: ‘We’ve decided we don’t want to get involved!”
On a day on which he shared the stage with his predecessor Ron Prosor, the outgoing Israeli ambassador to the UN, Taub noted the “astonishing resilience of Israel’s peace treaties, and the growing alignment of interests between Israel and its neighbours”.
In what will be seen as one of his final messages, he thanked both the UK Government for its support, and the British Jewish community, declaring: “We are at our best when we are at our closest.” Taub shared his excitement about bilateral collaboration in technology, research and business. He said: “The range of our co-operations, whether in business, technology or research, is remarkable.”
An experienced negotiator, Taub said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was more than just a struggle over land, arguing that the region was experiencing its biggest period of upheaval for 100 years – possibly 1,000 years.
Prosor, whose contribution was praised by the audience alongside that of Taub, took the opportunity to explain that Israel faced battles on many fronts, not least in the battle for public opinion in world bodies such as the United Nations.
He used the example of a recent report singling out countries for their treatment of women, asking: “Who do they single out? Not Saudi Arabia, not Iran, but Israel.” Prosor has often criticised the organisation’s obsession with the Jewish state. He told the conference: “The battlefield has changed dramatically. In the past they tried to get at Israel, [but] that didn’t work out. Today, the battlefield is on international soil, framing Israel as international property.”
The campaign against Israel was being waged from all sides, he said. “It doesn’t matter where you stand politically, left or right, what is conducted against Israel by the Palestinians is nothing less than a political error.”
He concluded: “Every day I enter the United Nations, past many flags, only one with a star of David on it. “For some, this is one flag too many. But every day, I stand tall and proud, knowing who and what I represent.”