Ambassador Taub makes new friends

Got it in one: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles takes a well-made point by Ambassador Daniel Taub

Got it in one: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles takes a well-made point by Ambassador Daniel Taub

Daniel Taub, the new Israeli ambassador to the UK, used events organised by Conservative Friends of Israel at the Conservative Party conference to thank the coalition government for "coming through" on amending the legislation on universal jurisdiction. Speaking at a private lunch on Monday, Mr Taub, who is three weeks into the job, announced that as a result of the change in the law, Israeli Opposition leader Tzipi Livni would visit the UK this week without fear of arrest for alleged war crimes.

At a CFI fringe meeting later in the day, Mr Taub said there had been a "very receptive response from the British government" to Israel's concerns about the unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations last month. He said the move provided "a magnetic attraction away from the negotiating table". He added that although the Palestinians stopped short of taking the proposal on observer status at the UN to a vote, this had merely bought time. "October is the new September," he warned.

He said Israel had grown used to being told that its genuine friends were candid with their criticism, but asked: "Where are the genuine friends of the Palestinians?" He was joined on the panel by Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, who said he was pleased that a direct confrontation at the UN had been avoided, but that "time was pressing" to reach a negotiated settlement.

Mr Taub took a similar message to the Labour Party last week. "It is sending a message to the Palestinians that you don't have to make tough choices for peace," he told a packed meeting of Labour Friends of Israel.

He also condemned the TUC for its decision to review its relationship with the Histadrut: "It is a tragedy when progressivebodies play a non- progressive role." He noted that 430,000 people had taken to the streets of Israel to campaign for social justice and called on people on the liberal left to recognise the significance of this movement.

Labour leader Ed Miliband told the same meeting that backing the Palestinian bid for statehood was the right thing for his party to do. He understood that for some in the room this was a difficult decision to accept. But as negotiations had not moved on, he believed it was "right to support the Palestinian wish for the upgrading of their status at the UN".

Mr Miliband emphasised that Labour backing for Israel remained strong and pointed to Labour's support for the change to the law on universal jurisdiction: "We were right to take the decision to support the principle of what the government is doing," he said.

Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander joined him on the platform, while several other Shadow Cabinet members including Jim Murphy, Ivan Lewis and Ed Balls also attended the event, as did rising Labour stars Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger.

The reception was the first since LFI became a membership organisation under the leadership of new director Jennifer Gerber. LFI chair John Woodcock MP paid tribute to his predecessor David Cairns, who died earlier this year.

GENOCIDE ON THE AGENDA

Politicians and experts considered British responses to post-Holocaust genocide at a Holocaust Educational Trust fringe event at the Conservative Party conference this week.

MP Bob Stewart, a former British Army officer and UN commander in Bosnia, recalled how his mother had worked as a special operations agent in the war and had witnessed the atrocities of Bergen-Belsen.

HET also held a fringe session at Labour's conference in Liverpool. Former International Develop-ment Minister Gareth Thomas MP said aid must be used more widely overseas to act as a potential block to genocide by supporting free media and civil society.

At both conferences HET co-hosted dinners with the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

Guests in Manch-ester included extremism expert Dr Mathew Goodwin, and in Liverpool the groups were joined by comedian David Baddiel.

Last updated: 1:29pm, November 28 2011