UK government

Hague to Israel 'no time for belligerence'

By Jennifer Lipman, February 9, 2011

William Hague has warned Israel that for the sake of the Middle East peace process “this should not be a time for belligerent language.”

The Foreign Secretary, currently on a three day tour of North Africa and the Middle East, called instead for “bold leadership” from the United States and “equally bold steps by Israelis and Palestinians”.

He made the remarks in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments about being willing to "reinforce the might of the state of Israel" should it prove necessary.

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Liam Fox addresses the Herzliya Conference

By Jennifer Lipman, February 8, 2011
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Defence Secretary Liam Fox speaks in Israel on Middle East peace and Iran

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Government to keep funding Holocaust Memorial Day

By Jessica Elgot, January 28, 2011

The government will fund at least two more years of the Holocaust Memorial Day with a grant of £1.5m.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced the funding will continue at the national HMD event last night.

He said: “Antisemitism and other forms of bigotry have sadly not yet been relegated to the history books. It’s the responsibility of every one of us to challenge divisive views and discrimination whenever we see them.

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Shift in mood

By Martin Bright, January 20, 2011

Alistair Burt's strong criticisms of Israel this week mark an interesting shift in the mood music on the Middle East. Mr Burt is a trusted supporter of Israel, and his criticism of settlement building did not stray from established UK policy.

But it is no accident that the Foreign Office chose to publicise his comments. Still more significant is his decision to back the Arab community's concerns about the Knesset's commission of inquiry into the activities of human rights organisations.

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Alistair Burt: Building 'not helpful'

By Martin Bright, January 20, 2011

Middle East minister Alistair Burt used a visit to Israel this week to condemn new settlement building in East Jerusalem. He said the construction of 1400 new apartments in Gilo would damage future prospects of peace.

"We have always been clear that settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace. Pushing ahead with this plan would be a deeply unhelpful move and hinder efforts to resume talks between the two parties leading to a two-state solution to this conflict, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states living side by side in peace and security."

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Alistair Burt visits Israel's Carmel Forest

By Jennifer Lipman, January 18, 2011
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The British foreign office minister for the Middle East is in Israel this week for the first time since his appointment. On his first day Alistair Burt visited northern Israel to see the area damaged by a devestating forest fire at the end of last year.

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The clashes that divided Thatcher and Israel

By Marcus Dysch, December 30, 2010

Margaret Thatcher believed that Menachem Begin was the "most difficult" man she had to deal with in the early years of her premiership, and thought his West Bank policy "absurd".

The former Prime Minister's views about her Israeli counterpart are unearthed in documents released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule.

The previously secret papers reveal that, during a tête-à-tête with President Giscard of France at Number 10 in November 1979, Mrs Thatcher discussed how she had "never had a more difficult man to deal with" than Mr Begin.

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Charedim applaud visa rule change

By Simon Rocker, December 29, 2010

The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations has welcomed a court ruling which may force the government to ease restrictions on marriage visas.

Two years ago, new rules were introduced to refuse entry for spouses from outside the European Union if they or their British spouse were under 21.

But the change hit the Charedi community, where people marry young and often choose partners from Israel or the USA.

The Court of Appeal has now called into question the whole policy - which was designed to combat forced marriages - after upholding appeals on behalf of two non-Jewish couples.

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FOI papers 'lost', say

By Jonathan Kalmus, December 22, 2010

Civil servants lost a Freedom of Information appeal which could shed light on a missing Israeli soldier.

The Foreign Office said it did not know what had happened to papers requesting a 1982 ambassador's report, which may have contained references to Zachary Baumel. It only said they had been passed to the Information Commissioner's Office. But an official there said: "The FO are dealing with it. It's not an ongoing case with us."

Now lawyers acting for the soldier's family have been asked by the FO to make a fresh appeal. But they fear the mix-up could be a delaying tactic.

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Tillman calls for delay to VAT rise

By Robyn Rosen, December 22, 2010

Harold Tillman, the chairman of the British Fashion Council, has urged the Government to delay VAT rises.

Mr Tillman, a member of St John’s Wood Synagogue, is calling for January’s planned VAT rise to 20 per cent to be postponed for 30 days to help consumers who have been prevented from shopping because of this month’s snow.

Mr Tillman, who owns clothing brands Jaeger and Aquascutum and was appointed a CBE for his services to fashion earlier this year, told Sky News: “I think that would allow people that were going to shop, that want to shop, to do so in January.

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