Friday, May 30, 2014

BDS Fail from Across the Pond. Remarks by Matthew Gould, British Ambassador to Israel

Last night the British Ambassador Matthew Gould hosted over 600 guests at the residence to celebrate the Queen's official birthday. Here's the speech he delivered. Count all the BDS fails.

Remarks by Matthew Gould, British Ambassador to Israel on the occasion of the Queen’s Birthday 2014

"It is a great pleasure to welcome you to our celebration of the birthday of Queen Elizabeth, the fourth such party that Celia and I have hosted in Israel. (It is the fifth that I have hosted altogether – I hosted one in Iran, though that was a very different sort of affair. No string quartet, less alcohol, and fewer Jews.).

We have been in Israel almost four years. Four happy, fulfilling, challenging years. We are glad to call Israel our home. And we are grateful that Her Majesty, whose birthday we are celebrating today, was gracious enough to let us have a fifth year here. We are already sad at the thought of packing our bags, although it is more than a year away.

It is traditional at national days for the Ambassador to explain how the previous year has been a great one for relations between their country and Israel. I am a fan of tradition. And the truth is, it has indeed been a very good year. The Jewish Chronicle of London, which as many of you will know, is the fount of all wisdom, said that had never been a better time for relations between the two countries.

Just a few weeks ago, David Cameron came and established beyond doubt his friendship for Israel, his belief in Israel, and his ambitions for the partnership between Britain and Israel. He celebrated our links in tech and science. He saw the Knesset at its most democratic, and understood the meaning of ‘balagan’. He set out to the Knesset a powerful vision for a future of peace with a Palestinian state sitting alongside Israel. He didn’t hide our differences, which are well known, but made clear that our relations are so much more than total of those differences.

Just a few weeks after David Cameron was here, the Leader of the Opposition came to Israel. Ed Miliband made clear that Britain’s commitment to a security partnership, to building links in tech and science, to our friendship with Israel, had cross-party support.

And in the past year those links have continued to grow. British Governments have long said that Britain understood Israel’s security needs, and is a true security partner for Israel. I am confident that this rhetoric is now a reality, underpinned by an unprecedented level of cooperation between the two countries.

In science, we are building the vision of partnership that William Hague set out when he first visited Israel as Foreign Secretary, and enshrined in an agreement with Israel on his second visit. In March over 250 British and Israeli scientists gathered at the Technion at our second UK/Israel Regenerative Medicine Conference. Through the year, we have seen a host of conferences and delegations in neuro, nano and water science. And we will soon announce exciting schemes for post-doc Fellowships and cooperation between our scientific communities.

On the economic front, the partnership has never been stronger. Britain became Israel’s biggest export market in the world after the US. David Cameron described Britain’s links with Israel in technology as ‘the best tech partnership in the world’. And he announced the Tech Hub model developed at our Embassy in Israel was going to be rolled out to other markets around the world.

This year, we have given this event a universities theme. I hope you saw the picture of famous Israelis –along with our own royals - when they were studying at British universities. Just as Israel is rightly proud of its universities, so we in the UK are very proud of ours – depending on which survey you use, we have either 3 or 4 of the world’s top ten universities in Britain.

In the past year we have seen a proliferation of links and partnerships between British and Israeli universities. Soon after David Cameron was here we had our Minister for universities, bringing a delegation of University Presidents with him (or as we quaintly call them in Britain, Vice-Chancellors). Last week we had the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford in Israel. Next month we have the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge here. It is an extraordinary partnership being formed based on mutual respect and excellence.

Which makes it all the more sad that the popular perception in Israel of Britain’s universities has been so warped by a few loud voices on the fringe, calling for an academic boycott of Israel. There are over 130 universities in the UK; not one has an official boycott of Israel in place. I have spoken at numerous university Jewish societies up and down the UK; almost all tell me that their campus experience has been hugely positive and free from tension or intimidation. The recent global ADL study showed Britain had one of the lowest rates of anti-semitism in the world. But we cannot ever be complacent, as the horrific and evil attack in Brussels this weekend reminded us.

Part of the job of my team here is to ensure that this positive message is heard, and the voice of those calling for boycotts is not the only voice that is heard. If we end up accidentally amplifying their voice, then we have ended up doing their job for them, dissuading Israeli students from studying in the UK and ensuring the next generation of British leaders heard first-hand about the Israeli experience.

The past year has had downs as well as ups. The negotiations led with extraordinary determination by John Kerry did not result in the progress towards peace based on two states that so many friends of Israel wanted to see. I know Israel, along with the Palestinians, wanted to see progress. Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has spoken of the urgent need for two nation-states to stop Israel becoming a bi-national state. And David Cameron spoke to the Knesset about the immense benefits for Israel - security, economic and political - that would be unleashed by a lasting peace.

On Iran, the close cooperation between Britain and Israel continued, but Israel made clear its doubts about the interim deal and the negotiations now going on. We have heard those concerns clearly. We talk often and closely to Israel about the way forward. But we are determined to test – with the clock on Iran’s programme effectively stopped - whether there is a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear programme. Because we are all agreed that a diplomatic solution is vastly better than a military one.

This event is my chance to review the year, and to say thank you. To all my wonderful team, who have been working far too hard on all the various things I’ve mentioned, and many others besides.

To our many partners here – in the MFA, the NSC, and across the Israeli government;
in other embassies in the Knesset; the media; companies and universities; in Israel’s Arab community; and in the Haredi community, which I have had the privilege of getting to know in the past year.

To our wonderful sponsors including Rolls Royce, our gold sponsor,

To our Israeli friends, who have turned this country from our posting into our home.

To my wonderful wife, who is an inspiration and my best friend, and our sabra daughters, who have given us unbelievable joy and little sleep.

Last week I was back in London for a conference of all Britain’s ambassadors. We share experiences and stories, and huge amounts of gossip. And each year I go, it reminds me that there is nowhere that I would rather be than Israel. It is not straightforward. And there is always “balagan”. But this country is very special, and we are glad to be here."

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