Israel’s Ambassador to UK Reflects on Global Issues, Namely Iran, Before Leaving Office
by Shiryn Ghermezian / JNS.org
JNS.org – Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom Mark Regev discussed Israel’s relations with Britain and its neighbors during a webinar on Thursday, his last live streamed event before ending his five-year term as ambassador.
Regev, who has served in the Israeli foreign ministry for more than three decades, began the online discussion, hosted by the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, by voicing support for Israel’s move to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria.
“All Israeli governments since the Six-Day War have consistently said we want secure borders and those aren’t the borders of 1967,” he said. “We’re very aware of the concerns in the region, and we want to make sure the peace treaties with our neighbors stay strong. We don’t want to do something that would cause great instability. The hope is we can move forward on this in a way that will make Israel stronger and more secure.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, and parts of Judea and Samaria, constitutes a violation of international law.
The discussion then turned to the United Kingdom, during which Regev discussed the rise of antisemitism in the country, especially within the Labour Party. One of the top challenges Regev faced during his term as ambassador was maintaining a relationship with the Labour Party under its former leader, Jeremy Corbyn. He was the only Israeli official to meet Corbyn, back in July 2016.
Regev noted that the last four Labour prime ministers were pro-Israel; that “historically” the Labour Party has exhibited solidarity with Israel; and that he hopes the party will “go back to the traditional approach of moral solidarity with the Jewish state.”
He also urged Britain and all countries to relocate their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following the US embassy’s move in May 2018. Regev said he hoped he could get the United Kingdom to move its embassy during his tenure, “but unfortunately, I have yet to be successful on this particular issue. Maybe my successor will succeed on this one.”
It was just announced that Israeli Settlement Affairs Minister Tzipi Hotovely will take over where Regev left off.
A country not relocating its embassy to Jerusalem is “discrimination against Israel,” Regev continued saying. He gave examples of countries that changed capital cities in the past (such as Turkey moving its capital from Istanbul to Ankara), and in each case, the international community responded by relocating embassies to the new capitals.
“Only in the case of Israel is this universal norm not applied,” said the ambassador. “Only in the case of Israel do people say we don’t respect your right as a sovereign independent country to choose your own capital city. And in the case of Jerusalem, it’s particularly egregious because Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people not since the founding of the State of Israel, but this goes back 3,000 years to the time of the Bible. To ignore the Jewish connection to Jerusalem over so many centuries is to ignore reality.”
Regev also addressed the threats that Iran poses to the Jewish state, the world and regional security in the Middle East. He began by listing the Iranian regime’s “fundamentally aggressive and destabilizing” actions, such as its “nefarious” nuclear program, sponsorship of terrorism and stronghold in Syria that is aiding President Bashar Assad’s “brutal dictatorship.”
He then criticized Tehran, saying its “leadership is stuck in this revolutionary Islamist, Khamenei-ist outlook, which is to export their version of the Islamic revolution, and it’s a threat to us all.”
“I’d say to the Iranian regime: You want to be treated like a normal country? Start acting like one. Until you do, we’re gonna keep the pressure on.”