Matthew Gould is the British ambassador to Israel. You don't get the job unless you are tactful and diplomatic in your use of language. And you won't keep the job for long unless you are seen as a 'friend of Israel'. Being the first Jewish British ambassador helps. Which is why Mr Gould's comments this week, reported in Haaretz, are significant. Indeed, if they don't exactly reflect a sea change in UK policy toward Israel, at least they provide a sober warning delivered by a committed friend.
The Haaretz headline is "World might lose patience with Israel within 10 years, says U.K. Ambassador". The subheading is a lesson in how to an ambassador should deliver bad news if they want to keep their head. "British ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould says anyone who cares about Israel, should be concerned about the erosion of international support."
The British ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould said on Thursday that anyone who cares about Israel, should be concerned about the erosion of international support for the country.I suggest Mr Gould's coded language indicates the British government is seriously worried. Ten years is a long time. The full article is here
Speaking on Channel 10 news on Thursday evening, Gould said, "Israelis might wake up in 10 years time and find out that suddenly the international community has changed, and that patience for continuing the status quo has reduced."
"Support for Israel is starting to erode and that's not about these people on the fringe who are shouting loudly and calling for boycotts and all the rest of it. The interesting category are those members of parliament in the middle, and in that group I see a shift."
"The problem is not hasbara. The center ground, the majority, the British public may not be expert but they are not stupid and they see a stream of announcement about new building in settlements, they read stories about what's going on in the West Bank, they read about restrictions in Gaza. The substance of what's going wrong is really what's driving this," he said.
He also said that there is "growing concern" in the U.K. over the lack of progress towards peace with the Palestinians.
See also British envoy tells Israelis some un-diplomatic truths, and U.K. Jews should also listen in
Anshel Pfeffer reports,
Matthew Gould, Britain's ambassador to Israel's interview this evening on Channel Ten, was surprising in his willingness to tell some undiplomatic truths to Israelis on primetime. Not that there is anything new about Britain's foreign policy positions; they have been in favor of a Palestinian state and against West Bank settlements for decades. But Gould wasn't talking about Britain's policy. He was talking about the positions of ordinary British citizens who don't see much to like nowadays in Israel. He warned "anyone who cares about Israel's standing in the world" and Gould certainly is one, "should be concerned about the erosion of popular support."Pfeffer observes,
He refused to respond to Israeli accusations of British media bias, but he had and explanation, it was simple. "Israel is now seen as the Goliath and it’s the Palestinians who are seen as the David" and if Israelis don’t absorb that, they "might wake up in ten years time and suddenly find that the level of understanding in the international community has suddenly changed. That the level of patience for continuing the status quo has reduced.
Gould, it almost doesn't need reminding, is also the first Jewish ambassador to represent Britain in Israel. And while he was addressing himself to the Israeli public, the last section of the interview could also have been directed at the Jewish community back at home.
Ironically, this is also the only part of the interview in which he used a word in Hebrew. "The problem is not hasbara," and seemed to be talking not just to Israelis, but to those Jewish supporters of Israel back in London who always complain that Israelis just don't explain themselves well, that their hasbara isn't good enough. Israel's real problem says Gould is with "the center ground, the majority. The British public may not be expert but they are not stupid and they see a stream of announcement about new building in settlements, they read stories about what's going on in the West Bank, they read about restrictions in Gaza. The substance of what's going wrong is really what's driving this."