I first met Ambassador Taub shortly after I joined Bicom – the Israel advocacy group - and he had joined the Israeli embassy in London.
It was a challenging meeting – it was clear he had a sharp mind, a quick wit and was impatient to get things done. He implored the Bicom team to “get down from the balcony and onto the stage”, to take on Israel’s critics in the media and elsewhere directly and vigorously.
It was advice he applied equally to himself. During his tenure in the UK he visited newspaper editorial boards, university campuses, government ministries, party conferences and TV studios.
His keen intellect, native English accent and natural reasonableness came across well, while underneath, in my experience, he was the quintessential iron fist in a velvet glove. For example, I heard from my sources at the Guardian that his meeting with their editorial board had been much a more testing and effective affair than in the past.
Our tenures in post were almost coterminous and it’s fair to say these were not easy times for Israel, either at home or in her international diplomacy. An atrophying peace process, growing threats from terrorism, political turmoil and instability in the Arab world along with an ever more assertive Iran understandably preoccupied Israeli leaders.
Sympathy for Israel declined in some quarters and open hostility became more visible. Against this background, the ambassador’s mix of urbane lawyer and passionate advocate served his country well and, I believe, played a large part in ensuring that the UK still remains one of the Israel’s best friends in Europe.
The biggest challenge of his tenure was probably last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. The lengthy conflict and mounting casualties led our news bulletins for days. Having worked on both sides of the camera, as a TV producer and a spokesperson, I know how deceptively difficult media interviews can be. Ambassador Taub appeared frequently in the media and acquitted himself well, maintaining his charm and reasonableness while passionate in his defence of Israel. Throughout this time he was a credit to his office, his country and the cause of Zionism.
The last time I saw the ambassador was at the We Believe in Israel conference in April. For those of us involved in campaigning, becoming jaded and cynical is, unfortunately, an occupational hazard. However his closing speech was the finest I have ever heard on this subject. It was one of those moments that raise the hairs on the back of your neck. I would recommend to anyone interested in speaking up for Israel to search out the text and video of that speech.
I was fortunate during my term as chief executive of Bicom to have Daniel Taub in the ambassador’s residence. Israel’s future is both safer and richer for his contribution.