Skip to comments.Israel, Britain tone down strains in relations
Posted on 05/16/2003 11:11:04 AM PDT by knighthawk
LONDON: Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called Britain a close friend on Thursday, but said it must do more to combat rising anti-Semitism here.
Shalom spoke after meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in talks aimed at reducing recent strains between the two countries.
"I think the meetings that I had with the prime minister and foreign secretary were very fruitful meetings and will show the Israeli people that Britain is still a close friend of Israel. I think it is very important that we will have now warm relations like we had in the near past," Shalom said.
"Among friends, we can have difficulties, but we are working on it in order to overcome those difficulties."
Shalom also said ``more could be done'' in Britain to prevent the rise of the anti-Semitism, which he said was behind a recent suicide bombing carried out by two British Muslims in Tel Aviv.
"We have seen recently there is more incitement from extremist organizations towards the Jewish community here and towards Israel," he said. In the past, the British government has taken steps to prevent such groups from carrying out attacks against Jews and Israel, he said.
"I am sure that always more can be done, and I hope that this attack that was implemented in Tel Aviv was the first and the last that will come from Britain," Shalom told reporters.
Some Jewish leaders have complained about a rise of anti-Semitic attacks in Britain, including the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Relations between Britain and Israel became strained after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon banned Palestinian delegates from attending a Middle East conference in London organized by Blair's office earlier this year.
Sharon also was galled that Blair met with then-Israeli Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna in the run-up to Israeli elections. Sensitivities were further bruised when Straw appeared to draw parallels between breaches of U.N. resolutions by Israel and by Iraq.
On Wednesday, Sharon sharply criticized Britain, telling the Jerusalem Post: "In my younger days, I always saw Tony Blair as a friend of Israel and he may be a friend of Israel today, but those comparisons, the demands on Israel, appeared to me as unnecessary intervention."
Speaking on Israel's Channel 2 TV, Shalom was asked if Blair had demanded that Israeli settlements be removed. "We discussed his desire, and mine _ together_ to encourage the peace process," Shalom said.
He said Blair and Straw want Sharon's government to take steps to help new Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen and the peace process. "I told them...we think it is an opportunity that can't be missed and we hope that the new Palestinian leadership will be determined in combating terror and incitement, then they will find us ready to do a lot toward renewing the peace process," Shalom said.
He quoted Straw as saying he had never intended to compare Saddam Hussein's regime and the Israeli government and that if he had been misunderstood, he apologized.