Peres to address MPs in historic visit

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 5, 2008

All the stops will be out to honour Israeli President Shimon Peres when he visits Britain for the first time since becoming president, on November 17. In addition to an as yet unannounced honorary title from the queen, he will be receiving also an honorary doctorate from King's College in London.

Both the British and Israeli foreign ministries have unofficially confirmed that Mr Peres would be receiving an honorary title during his visit, though the exact nature of the title is "still in the works." In addition to his meeting with the Queen, Mr Peres will meet Prince Charles separately.

Mr Peres will be receiving the doctorate as a recognition for his work in furthering peace in the Middle East, from the principal of King's, Professor Rick Trainor, who is also head of Universities UK, the organisation that co-ordinates the leading universities and colleges in Britain. The award is seen by the Israeli Foreign Ministry as a further blow to the academic boycott campaign against Israel. Additionally, Balliol College Oxford is to host President Peres for a reception before he gives a lecture on "The Globalisation of Peace" at the city's Sheldonian Theatre.

Aside from meetings with senior journalists and opinion-makers and a reception at the Dorchester, hosted by Bicom head Poyu Zabludowicz and the UJIA, for the Jewish community, the main focus of the visit will be political. The only Israeli leader assured of keeping his job after February's Israeli elections is Mr Peres, and despite holding what is officially only a titular position, he is deeply involved in Israel's most crucial defence policy-making. He is expected to update Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the Iranian nuclear situation. Mr Brown will host a dinner at Downing Street in Mr Peres's honour.

President Peres will also be the first Israeli leader to address a joint meeting of members of the Houses of Commons and the Lords in Parliament and will meet Opposition leader David Cameron.

Mr Peres is also expected to unveil a special plaque at the Foreign Office, together with Foreign Secretary David Miliband, honouring British diplomats who helped save Jews during the Holocaust. The plaque has come under criticism from Holocaust education groups for not specifically mentioning names of those diplomats.


Last updated: 1:41pm, November 5 2008