By Justin Cohen
Silvan Shalom has insisted there is huge potential for continued growth in trade between Britain and Israel as he dismissed the boycott campaign as being characterised by “high volume but little on the ground”.
The vice prime minister hailed a near doubling of bilateral trade over the past four years, paying tribute to the role played by former ambassador Daniel Taub.
During an exclusive interview, he told the Jewish News: “The potential is much much higher but we are very happy that our mutual trade is going up one year after another and to double it in four or five years is a huge achievement.
“The fact the London Stock Exchange is asking Israeli companies to list shows the real situation, not BDS with high volume but little on the ground.”
Shalom also addressed the stalled peace process following a meeting with the foreign office minister Baroness Anelay, at which she claimed settlement expansion made it increasingly difficult for Israel’s friends to defend itself against accusations it’s not serious about peace.
Insisting he was serious about reaching a settlement, Shalom said the government had removed some roadblocks and checkpoints while increasing the number of Palestinians working in Israel to numbers not seen for decades.
A series of meetings have taken place between Israeli and Palestinian officials in recent months. “We can achieve progress. Of course it takes two to tango but the fact there is engagement between Israel and the Palestinians shows that both sides would like to find ways to make progress. We are willing to resume negotiations, the prime minister has said it, I’ve said it more than once and we’re moving forward.”
But he added: “I don’t know what sort of negotiations we will have. All the other tracks failed to deal with all the issues of the final agreement at the same time. Peres, Barak, Ehud Olmert, all of them tried and failed. Tzipi Livni tried more than once. Maybe the time has come to look at it in a different way, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Turning his attention to Islamic State, Shalom acknowledged the “very close cooperation” with Egypt and Jordan over the threat. If the terrorists succeeded in toppling the Syrian regime, he warned, “the next step will be to invade Jordan. From Jordan it will go to Saudi Arabia and Israel”.
He said: “Iran is undermining the existence of Israel, Daesh is not. But of course while they will be on our borders it will be very difficult. That’s why now it’s more understood why the Golan Heights are so important. The same with the Jordan Valley. It’s not well understood why we insist of an Israeli presence in the Jordan valley. just try to think if they will go from Iraq to Jordon or from Syria to Jordan then through the Jordan Valley to the territories then to Israel. So it’s something that we have to prevent in advance and it’s more understood now I think why we insist of our security.”