'Next 6 months crucial for resumption of negotiations'

UK ambassador says Egyptian politicians may use anti-Israel rhetoric to win voters, creating dangerous situation for Israel.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
March 10, 2011 14:09
2 minute read.
British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould.

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

Free elections set to take place in Egypt may turn ugly for Israel unless the peace process is resumed, UK ambassador Matthew Gould warned on Thursday.

Speaking to Israeli reporters at his residence in Ramat Gan, Gould said Egyptian politicians might try to outdo each other with rhetoric critical of the Jewish state to gain voters.

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“If the peace process continues to be completely stuck as neighboring countries go into elections to determine their new political shape, those elections will effectively become auctions for who could be more critical of Israel, and I think that’s extremely dangerous,” he said.

“As someone representative of a country that really cares about Israel’s security and position in the region, the last thing we want to see is elections in the region turning into who-could-be-more-critical- of-Israel competitions. The way to avoid that is to have progress with the talks.”

Gould said the next six months would be pivotal to the prospects of resurrecting talks between Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority that have been stalled for more than two years.

“September is going to be extremely difficult, because you have the deadline that Obama set out for UN representation for the Palestinians,” he said. “If there is no progress by then we’ll be in trouble.”



As in all press conferences the 39-year-old diplomat has held since he assumed his position six months ago, the UK’s treatment of Israel in the wake of the mysterious assassination of senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010 came up.

In March 2010 the British government expelled Israel’s military attaché to protest the alleged use of forged British passports by Israeli agents said to have carried out the killing.

Last week, however, several British troops were reportedly caught in Libya in possession of four forged foreign passports each.

Gould rejected the notion that the UK’s response towards Israel was hypocritical, saying it had decided to take punitive measures against it because its explicit requests were ignored by the Mossad.

“As the foreign secretary said, it was not on the basis of suspicion,” Gould said. “It came following several requests that British passports not be used in that way.”

He said he was not at liberty to discuss recent secret operations in Libya or whether it was common practice by British security services to forge foreign passports.

Immediately after the press conference ended, Gould accepted a ketuba-like parchment made by Israeli-Briton Michael Horton on behalf of Prince William and Kate Middleton for their wedding.

Gould, who is Jewish, said the scroll written in Hebrew and English would reach Britain through the diplomatic mail ahead of the marriage set to take place next month.


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