New Israeli ambassador urges UK to move embassy to Jerusalem

Tzipi Hotovely is Israel’s first female envoy to Britain


Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on January 11, 2017. / AFP / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel’s new ambassador to the UK has called on the British government to move its embassy to Jerusalem, defended the settlements and said that Brexit would “help” trade between the nations.

In a wide ranging interview with the JC - her first media encounter since arriving this summer - Tzipi Hotovely, who is Israel’s first female ambassador to the UK, also welcomed open relations with Arab nations after the historic Abraham Accords were signed this year between Israel and the Gulf states, as well as Sudan and Morocco.

She said she expected more peace deals to be announced.

Ambassador Hotovely said she hoped to raise the issue of the British Embassy with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

She said: “I think all embassies should be located in Jerusalem.

“I really hope we will have an opportunity to discuss that with this government and to say that historically I believe this is the right thing to do because it reflects the reality of Jerusalem being our capital since Israel was established.”

She added: “All countries in the world should locate their embassies where the capital is. This is very strange to not locate embassies where the state has decided it’s the capital.”

Ambassador Hotovely, a career politician before taking over the diplomatic position from Mark Regev, said she hoped that the UK would relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, after American Embassy was relocated in May 2018. Describing the move under outgoing US President Donald Trump, as a “good role model”, Ambassador Hotovely said the suggestion that the move would cause unrest in the Middle East was a “myth”.

She explained: “The whole myth of making the Middle East a dangerous place by moving the embassy to Jerusalem is just not correct. Look at the reality, the Middle East was never more flourishing in terms of peace agreements.”

Welcoming the peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as well as Sudan and Morocco, Ambassador Hotovely – whose first meetings in the UK have deliberately been with representatives of the Arab nations - said: “There are more countries to follow. These are such exciting times in terms of peace.”

However, Ambassador Hotovely – the former Settlements Minister in Israel – questioned the UK Foreign’s Office use of the term, “the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

She said: “We think statements that don’t reflect reality are being stated by the Foreign Office here. We keep on saying: 'Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and just denying it won’t help.'”

She dismissed the idea of the settlements being in breach of international law, saying: “Settlements are legal according to international law; this is the Israeli policy about it, this is the Foreign Ministry’s interpretation of international law.”

She said they were not an obstruction to the peace process, adding: “The majority of people in Israel say settlements are not the issue. The Palestinians were offered time after time to have their own state in different formulas; they always refused and it wasn’t about settlements.”

She added: “Flourishing communities, kindergartens and schools are not an obstacle to peace.”

Ambassador Hotovely, who is Orthodox, described Israel as the “homeland” of the Jewish people, saying: “Jews were connected to Judea – look at this name - and Samaria for 3,000 years. When we are speaking about places like the Cave of the Patriarchs or the City of David – those are places that Jews were connected for so many years.

“To say that Jews cannot live in their homeland, I think this is something that denies the Jewish people their historic connection to their homeland.

“This is why I think that according international law - and there are many ways of looking at this - that Jews are indigenous to this piece of land.”

Though Ambassador Hotovely has not ruled out returning to Israeli politics, she said that as a diplomat she hoped to secure more ties between Israel and the UK, welcoming “business opportunities” that would come with Brexit.

“I will invest a lot of my time in that,” she said, adding: “Britain is now rebuilding its economic ties around the world. By having separated from Europe, it should have new partners.

“For us, Britain is our third trade partner; it’s big; I want to make it even more.

“Israel with all its technology, opportunities and innovation; it can be a great partner to British companies.”

A mother of three daughters, Ambassador Hotovely, who is married to media company executive Or Alon, celebrated her 42nd birthday in London this month.

She said: “I am very proud to be the first woman to serve here as an Ambassador. I also came here as a mother to three daughters; so that’s also a statement. Coming here with my family is something for the next generation to say: ‘The years we are mothers are not the years we stop our careers; it’s actually the years we can move on with our careers’.”


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