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President Herzog begins official visit in UK

What happened: Israel’s President Isaac Herzog arrived in London yesterday for an official three-day visit.

  • On departure, Herzog referred to the UK as “one of Israel’s most powerful and closest allies”.
  • On arrival he was met with the news of a terror attack in Jerusalem. Herzog called it “another brutal reminder of where hatred can lead, when a Hamas terrorist murdered an innocent young man in cold blood in the Old City of Jerusalem and wounded many other Israelis … the fact that the terrorist came from the so-called ‘political wing’ of Hamas shows that the British Government is absolutely correct to proscribe the whole of Hamas as a terrorist organisation”.
  • Today he will meet with the Prince of Wales, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and members of parliament.
  • Last night President Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog began their official visit by honouring Jewish Olympians murdered by Nazi Germany. The exhibition at Stamford Bridge, featuring British-Israeli artist Solomon Souza’s portraits of Jewish athletes murdered by the Nazis, is part of Chelsea FC’s “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign led by club owner Roman Abramovich.
  • The President was also there to celebrate the 92nd birthday of Sir Ben Helfgott, a Holocaust survivor and weightlifting champion. Herzog described his story as “the power of an unbreakable will to overcome the darkest evil, and of the ability of the human spirit, to overcome the greatest inhumanity. The inner strength and resolve necessary to go from a concentration camp inmate in 1945, to competing in Israel in the Maccabiah Games in 1950, and in the Olympics in 1956, is almost unimaginable.”

On the agenda: 

Iran 

  • Herzog comes with a serious message about Iran. He declared on departure: “I shall make clear that Israel cannot allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons capability and it expects its allies to be tough and assertive toward the Iranians, including in their dialogue with them. Israel makes this position clear to all its friends and of course makes clear that it reserves all options to defend itself.”
  • In the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, Herzog wrote: “Iran does not want dialogue. It is exploiting the world’s willingness to negotiate to buy time. Israel cannot allow the fundamentalists of Tehran to acquire a nuclear bomb. The moderate nations of the Middle East need their allies, including Britain, to engage them in an urgent dialogue on how to stop Iran instead of wasting time on its games.”

Hamas 

  • Herzog will be full of appreciation Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the government’s decision to recognise Hamas as a terrorist organisation in its entirety.
  • Over the weekend Israeli media reported that Israel had provided the British government with intelligence from the Shin Bet, including material on several senior Hamas officials and their funding mechanisms.
  • In addition, according to Channel 13 News, Hamas was able to raise funds abroad for academic institutions, which allowed them to develop advanced weapons and missile technology.

Climate Change and Regional Cooperation 

  • President Herzog and Prince Charles are expected to discuss the royal visit to Jordan and Egypt last week and climate crisis.
  • Prince Charles, along with Prime Minister Johnson, met with Israeli Prime Minister Bennett in Glasgow at the climate conference, where Bennett committed Israel to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • As part of that commitment and in parallel during Herzog’s visit, Israel is due to sign a major green energy agreement with Jordan in partnership with the UAE. As part of the deal, Jordan will build a huge solar power plant in the desert that will be used to generate electricity for Israel. Israel will in turn develop another desalination plant and supply the water to Jordan. The deal is expected to be signed in the UAE tomorrow.

Looking ahead: Tomorrow President Herzog will meet Prime Minister Johnson and with leaders of the UK Jewish Community and will then return to Israel on Tuesday evening.

  • Now that the UK has joined US, EU, Canada and Japan in proscribing Hamas’ political and military wings as terror organisations, Israel will hope to make the case to other allies that would further delegitimise Hamas’s terror tactics.
  • Following the visit, Israel will be hoping for a greater British-Israeli dialogue to stop Iran’s efforts toward nuclear weapons and regional hegemony.

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