The Politics and International Relations Society once again host the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, in an evening filled with questions ranging from relations with the British Labour Party, to unsurprisingly, relations with Palestine. The evening was expertly chaired by PIR Society’s very own President Joshua Trood, leading an array of questions and pursuing clarity from Ambassador Regev.
Ambassador Regev opened with a speech regarding modern diplomacy, highlighting Washington as the capital for mediation, the first remark that hinted at Israeli relations with America. Later on, being questioned on the US ordered killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, the Ambassador gave complete support for the killing, stating he had no moral qualms about the assassination. Despite fears from many that this action by America could escalate tensions within the Middle East, Ambassador Regev assured the audience that the actions were de-escalatory as it proved to Iran that they would be held accountable for their immoral actions. From observing Ambassador Regev’s language towards America, it is evident that allies with the West is an essential piece in Israel’s plan to be considered a credible state, worthy of international recognition and stature. Talking of the US, Trumps so called ‘peace plan’ was raised, Ambassador Regev praised Trumps’ plan for dealing with the question as to whether Jews actually have the right to their homeland, and raised discontent with UN Papers which Ambassador Regev deemed, ‘problematic’. It seemed that every question raised regarding plans for Israel’s future, was a platform for Ambassador Regev to promote Israel’s democracy and strengthening relations within the region. Boasting of two peace treaties with more than half of the Arab league, Ambassador Regev subtly portrayed the effect these relationships will have on Palestine.
In Ambassador Regev’s promotion of Israeli democracy, he did highlight that Israel is in the aftermath of two unsuccessful general elections in the last year, with the third due in March. However, to reinforce democratic legitimacy, Ambassador Regev added commentary that unlike Syria and the former USSR, he did not know the election outcome. This was the beginning of an assault of reassurances that Israel is in fact a democratic, credible state with a vast future ahead of itself. Questions from the audience about the future of Israel was met with an ambiance of optimism from Ambassador Regev, boasting of allies within the region. In contrast to Israel, Ambassador Regev persisted, Palestinians cannot vote, they are persecuted if they are to demonstrate and are not in fact living in a democracy, however under Israel they would enjoy democratic rights. Despite the negative, yet expectant light, being shred on Palestine, Ambassador Regev looked to the future of reconciliation and a Middle East which looks, in his eyes, in the spirt and form of the European Union. In an realistic tone, Ambassador Regev, observed that this would not happen anytime soon. The realism being shred on future relations within the Middle East, did portray how far the region has to go to create peace. However, Ambassador Regev’s attitude and answers to almost every question regarding the Middle East and Israel was of the strengths of Israel as a functioning democracy and of increased relations with its neighbours. With Israeli leaked footage of Israel, Saudi and UAE talks, under the patronage of Mike Pence, there is further emphasis for the hoped direction Netanyahu and Ambassador Regev have for Israel.
Ambassador Regev also took questions regarding relations within British politics, specifically, the British Labour Party. With Ambassador Regev being at the centre of criticism against Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, it was no surprise that Ambassador Regev saw Corbyn as hostile to Israel and highlighted the investigation of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. Despite condemnation of Corbyn, Ambassador Regev proclaimed Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as ‘friends of Israel’ and inspiration from their university reforms were put in place in Israel. The divide between Israel and the British Labour Party was one Ambassador Regev perceived as closing, with the leadership contest well underway, there is certainly hope for a new relationship between British Labour and Israel. Answering an audience question regarding if relations will change between Britain and Israel now Britain has left the European Union, Ambassador Regev saw an opportunity of improved relations now the UK is looking outside of the EU for trade. Boasting of a nine billion of bilateral trade with the UK, and twenty billion bilateral trade for India and Britain; there was a certain sense that Israel, now seeing the reliance the UK has on US and outside-EU trade deals, could foresee a new relationship with Britain. This ‘opportunity’, as Ambassador Regev framed it, would indeed be vital for Israel, with as stronger relationship between the US and the UK, it seems realistic that the UK can be swayed to support the US in its relations with Israel.
The evening was interesting and thought provoking, however it certainly raised questions about Palestine. Ambassador Regev effectively painted Palestine as another issue within the Middle East, like Syria, that needed fixing. Of course, as a true diplomat, Ambassador Regev ensured that peace talks were always on the table with Palestine, however I felt with the alliances made with Trump’s America, there would be much more bargaining on Palestine’s part than Israel’s. Will there be peace in the region? Certainly not within the next decade, with Israel’s upcoming election, this could be an integral moment for Israel’s in sustaining its strength in continuing the operation for allies both inside and outside of the region.
Written by Sarah Tennent