UK envoy Gould appeals to Israelis not to cancel UK trips

As riots subside, British ambassador assures Israelis UK safe for a visit; violence was "criminality, pure and simple."

August 12, 2011 02:37
3 minute read.
British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould.

311_UK ambassador Gould. (photo credit: Courtesy of British Embassy )

With the worst violence Britain has faced in decades apparently on the wane, UK Ambassador Matthew Gould said Thursday that London was safe for Israeli tourists, students and businessmen.

“There is no reason in the world for Israeli tourists, or students, or people planning to go to the Olympics [in 2012] to cancel their trips,” Gould said. “We will make sure the Olympics are fun and spectacular,” he said, adding that British security forces have an “elaborate security plan in place.”

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Gould, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, said he understood why Israel issued a travel advisory Wednesday cautioning its citizens visiting England.

“I think it was a perfectly sensible thing to do,” he said.

“We would do the same thing. It makes sense. If there is violence and riots, you tell your citizens to avoid the violence and keep their eyes wide open.”

Gould said that with “one small exception happening in a specific place,” the violence that both rocked and shocked Britain this week was not in places where Israeli tourists or businesspeople generally go.

“More importantly, the situation is being brought under control.”

Asked if he thought there was anything the British police could learn from Israel about how to deal with the rioting, Gould said that while “there are always things to learn from each other,” what Britain faced this week was “gang violence and criminality, pure and simple. You had outbreaks of gang violence and looting and rioting in a number of places all at the same time. This is a new phenomenon, a new threat we are going to have to deal with.”

Asked the question in reverse, whether Israel – which quite possibly could face waves of Palestinian rioters in September – could learn from Britain’s current situation, Gould responded that it was a big mistake to draw a line between what is happening, and political protests in the West Bank, Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv or anywhere else.

“What’s been happening in London is not about politics,” he said. “A political agenda is not being heard.”

He said the rioters in London and other British cities were “young thugs” on a “power trip” who thought they could loot, burn and steal with impunity.

According to Gould, what the British government needed to do, and was intent on doing now through massive arrests, was to show there are “consequences for actions.”

Asked whether that was true in Israel as well, and specifically in regards to Israel’s reactions to missile fire from Gaza, Gould said there were certain basic principles that all could agree upon, one of them being that violence and breaking the law and threats to life and property is not alright.

“States have a legitimate right to act within the law to deal with those threats, and where the situation poses particular risks, to take action within the law to deal with them.”

This legitimate right, he said, “applies universally. Israel’s right to self-defense, to protect its citizens, to respond to threats against its citizens is not something we would ever question.”

The question that must always be asked, he said, is how this right is exercised, and whether it is exercised lawfully and in a proportional manner.

Britain, Gould said, will be asking itself difficult questions about why and how these riots erupted, where were the parents whose children were out marauding, and what can be done about the gangs.

He dismissed the notion that the violence was a result of a desperation that exists in certain sectors of British society, saying that many of those who took part in the riots had jobs and prospects, but simply felt there were no consequences for their actions.

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