UK, Israel leaders gather for strategic dialogue in London

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Senior UK and Israeli officials met yesterday in London to discuss issues of strategic common interest between the two countries.

The UK-Israel Strategic Dialogue was instituted as an annual forum for discussion in 2008, with the venue switching alternately between Jerusalem and London. Yesterday’s dialogue, which was hosted by the Foreign Office, was attended by the Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Dore Gold, plus the UK Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey.

Yesterday’s high-level forum took place just a week after two government ministers visited Israel –  Foreign Office minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood and Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock, who announced guidelines which will prevent public bodies such as local councils from boycotting specific countries, including Israel.

While in London yesterday, Gold was instructed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ask the government to act over hundreds of mock adverts disparaging Israel, which appeared on the London Underground network. The guerrilla advertising campaign, organised by a pro-Palestinian group, castigated companies for doing business with Israel and claimed that the BBC is biased in Israel’s favour. A spokesman for Transport for London described the adverts, which were unauthorised as “an act of vandalism which we take extremely seriously.” Gold told Army Radio that Israel’s Embassy in London had already liaised with the relevant authorities to deal with the issue prior to his involvement.

News of Gold’s intervention followed a claim by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid that the government had failed to act on the issue. Lapid told a party faction meeting that he had personally telephoned London Mayor Boris Johnson, who he called “a great friend of Israel,” saying that he “explained to him [Johnson] that the State of Israel will not tolerate such things.” Meanwhile, senior Zionist Union leader Tzipi Livni said that all Israeli political factions must come together against efforts to boycott Israel, commenting that “Israel has to isolate them.”