Three held as ambassador faces a riotous Assembly

By Ian Cameron, June 27, 2008
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Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor was given a rough reception both inside and outside the Welsh Assembly on Tuesday on his visit to Cardiff.

Pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with police who made three arrests as Mr Prosor arrived at the building on the Cardiff Bay waterfront.

Two women and a man were held for questioning on public-order offences and later bailed.

Four Assembly Members joined the 30 flag-waving protesters while inside Mr Prosor faced a “very aggressive” grilling from other AMs.

Fifteen AMs — a quarter of the Assembly — fired questions at the envoy, who mounted a combative defence of Israel’s position.

AMs condemned Israel’s stance on the West Bank settlements, their “stranglehold” on the Gaza Strip, strikes against Lebanon and the treatment of Arab citizens in Israel.


Protesters outside the Assembly on Tuesday while the Israeli ambassador spoke inside

Mr Prosor was in Cardiff on the latest leg of his round-Britain quest to explain the case for Israel and its dealings with the Arab world.

He had been invited to the Assembly by the only Muslim member, Plaid Cymru’s Mohammad Asghar, to meet AMs during his two-day visit to the Welsh capital.

Tory leader Nick Bourne, who could not attend the meeting, praised Mr Asghar for his “act of political courage” in arranging it.

Members from all four parties — Plaid Cymru, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats — turned up despite a boycott call by Assembly presiding officer, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas. He had emailed AMs urging them to snub the meeting .

Mr Prosor described Lord Elis-Thomas’s boycott as “against the Welsh spirit” , saying: “Although a lord, his statements are not very noble.”

After the meeting, Lib Dem AM Peter Black said: “We asked difficult, robust questions about the illegal settlements in the West Bank, the stranglehold on Gaza and treatment of Arab citizens.”

Plaid Cymru AM Alun Ffred Jones told Mr Prosor that the West Bank situation was creating a “very poor and negative” impression of Israel. Mr Jones scoffed at his response that the settlements were part of a “natural growth”. He said: “He was very robust in defence of Israel and came across as combative and challenging. But it came over very, very strongly from him that Israel has adopted a siege mentality.”

AMs were also critical of Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon, which they claimed allowed Hizbollah to flourish. But Mr Prosor said Israel had to respond when its soldiers were kidnapped.

Mr Asghar said: “It was a very constructive meeting. The questioning was very aggressive and robust but the ambassador was  informative and gave as good as he got.”

On Monday, Mr Prosor spent time with the Jewish community, speaking to 200 people at an event arranged by Cardiff Reform and United Synagogues.

The guests, members of both Cardiff synagogues, Newport and Swansea congregations and Christian supporters of Israel, were welcomed by Philip Kaye of the Cardiff Reform Synagogue. 

    Last updated: 6:26pm, June 27 2008