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The British Embassy has embarked on a new initiative to learn more about the settlement movement and last week invited the settler leadership to dinner at a kosher restaurant with its ambassador, Tom Phillips.
The move surprised Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, who said he hadn't expected to hear from Phillips's office.
"As far as we know, it is the first time an ambassador of such an important country, or any country, has issued an invitation to a delegation from the council," Dayan told The Jerusalem Post.
The meeting, which took place last Wednesday, did not presage any reassessment of Britain's policies toward the settlements, according to British officials. Rather, the meeting, initiated by Phillips, was an attempt by the British Embassy to develop a relationship with the settlers.
It was the first such meeting between settlement leaders and the British Embassy, and there are likely to be follow-up meetings.
The meeting was planned weeks ago and was not connected to Sunday's ministerial meeting on unauthorized settlement outposts and settlement construction.
Settlers who were present at the meeting included Dayan, former council chairman Benzi Lieberman and Gush Etzion council head Shaul Goldstein.
"We discussed the situation in the Middle East and the settlements and life in the settlements," said Dayan. "The atmosphere was good, and the discussion was sincere" - although, he added, there were obviously disagreements on the issues.
Encouraged by the meeting with Phillips, Dayan asked for the ambassador's help in arranging a meeting with Quartet Middle East envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is due here this week.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.