The international defence and security thinktank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), has confirmed the appointment of the first Jewish vice-president in its 180-year history.
North East property tycoon David Abrahams has been given the post in an attempt to boost the institute's work in Israel and Palestine. His fellow vice-presidents include Sir Paul Lever, former UK ambassador to Germany, Sir David Omand, former Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office, and the Duke of Westminster.
The JC understands that the first event to be planned by RUSI and Mr Abrahams will be a major conference of Arab foreign ministers in London this summer to discuss the normalisation of relations with Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The conference will take as its starting point the Arab Peace Initiative, first suggested at the 2002 meeting of the A rab League. This proposed peace in return for complete withdrawal from the Occupied Territories.
Mr Abrahams shot to public prominence in November 2007, after he was revealed as a secret donor to the Labour Party. The affair led to the resignation of the party's General Secretary, Peter Watt.
The Tyneside businessman has always taken a close interest in Israeli-Palestinian issues. He recently founded a chair at Warwick University in Middle East studies. His website carries the slogan: "Jobs for the North East and Peace in the Middle East".
Last year he called on Israel to engage in dialogue with Hamas. Writing on his blog he said: "I believe the time is now ripe for Israel and Hamas to enter into an open, even if indirect, dialogue. So far, the only communication between the rivals is conducted through mediators so as to achieve specific aims, such as the release of Gilad Shalit or the removal of the siege on Gaza." He has also called for a re-establishment of the close links between Israel and Turkey, following the boarding of the Gaza flotilla.
A spokesman from RUSI said: "David brings a great wealth of experience and expertise in the Middle East region. We are very happy to have someone of this calibre on board. This marks an increase in RUSI's engagement with Palestinian and Israeli issues." He said RUSI needed to increase its coverage of the Middle East and the appointment should be viewed in parallel with the launch of the institute's new Middle East "hub" in Doha, Qatar.
Mr Abrahams added: "This gives me a wonderful base and allows me to pursue these important issues."