UK foreign secretary: Academic boycott a mistake
Acting President and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik meets in Britain with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles. Foreign Secretary David Miliband tells her University and College Union's vote in favor of facilitating boycott of Israeli academics caused damage to British citizens
LONDON –British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Friday slammed the University and College Union's vote in favor of considering a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions in May.
Miliband spoke during a meeting with Acting President and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who arrived in the United Kingdom for an official visit. She also met with Prince Charles and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been appointed the Quartet's Middle East envoy.
Itzik said that Miliband was the one to raise the issue of the academic boycott, saying that the call for a boycott was a bad mistake which had caused damage to his country's citizens.
The foreign secretary also called on Israel to find a quick solution for the families of two British citizens killed by the IDF, James Miller and Tom Hurndall.
Itzik asked Miliband to try and work for the released of the kidnapped IDF soldiers.
Dalia Itzik with Prince Charles (Photo: John Rifkin)
The acting president said that during her meeting with Tony Blair, the former prime minister addressed his new role as quartet envoy, clarifying that the negotiations in the region would be held by the Americans.
"Blair's goal is to help build law, government, legal and economic institutions in the region," said Itzik. "He is well-aware of the complexity of the historic conflict, but this impossible mission motivates him."
Blair noted that he was aware of the sensitivities in the region, but believed they would help him when the time was right. He said one of his main goals was to support the moderates and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and that he believed they would back him upon his arrival.
Itzik made it clear to the former prime minister that she expected him and the United States to stick to the conditions set by the Quartet and not to negotiate with Hamas.
The acting president reiterated Israel's desire to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.
"If Israel is given true security, the public will be willing to make large concessions, as we did with Jordan and Egypt," she said. "Some of the global public is 'making life easy' for itself and accusing Israel of terror acts in its territory and across the world. In Britain there is no dispute over territories, and yet terror is raging on the streets."
Prince of Wales' gesture
Prince Charles made a special gesture when he agreed to meet with Itzik, an honor usually reserved for heads of state.
"I invited the prince to Israel's 60th anniversary next year, and he noted that he would also be celebrating his 60th birthday that year," the acting president said. According to Itzik, the prince of Wales was interested to hear about her former position as environment minister, due to his great involvement in the field.
The two officials discussed Keren Shemesh for Young Entrepreneurs, which is supported by the prince and helps young Jewish and Arab businesspeople.
Charles also raised the issue of the British civilians killed by the IDF, calling for a quick end to the affair and for a solution to the compensation issue.
Itzik also met with 25 lords, including Lord Khaled Hamid, a Muslim of Pakistan origin, who promised the acting president he would visit Israel. On Monday, she is scheduled to meet with about 250 parliament members.
Itzik said that she felt the British government was a friend of Israel.
"The visit was also aimed at connecting between the two parliaments, the British and the Israeli," the Knesset speaker said. "We often meet parliament members with a hostile approach toward Israel, and as we talk to them we feel a change in their opinions.