Cabinet confirms Likud’s Tzipi Hotovely as new ambassador to London

Cabinet confirms Likud’s Tzipi Hotovely as new ambassador to London

Tzachi Hanegbi to replace her as settlements minister; outgoing envoy to UK Mark Regev, formerly Netanyahu’s spokesperson for foreign press, expected to return to his old position

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Tzipi Hotovely at her office in Jerusalem, February 19, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Tzipi Hotovely at her office in Jerusalem, February 19, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The cabinet on Sunday unanimously voted to confirm the appointment of Settlement Affairs Minister Tzipi Hotovely as Israel’s next ambassador to the United Kingdom.

If the UK Foreign Office accepts her nomination, she will head to London in the fall.

“Tzipi, I want to thank you for the years of dedicated work, in the Knesset and also in the government,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

“You were deputy foreign minister — my deputy — for years. I was impressed by your dedicated work, by your readiness to learn things and to stand up for things — to stand for our rights here in this land, to stand for justice in the international struggle… We know there are challenges that will not be easy there and that you will have a great mission to fulfill.”

In July, days after Hotovely, an outspoken advocate of the settlement movement, confirmed that Netanyahu had offered her the London post, a petition by left-wing British Jews called on the British government to reject her as new ambassador.

“Hotovely has an appalling record of racist and inflammatory behavior from throughout her political career,” the petition read. “As British Jews we are clear: Tzipi Hotovely’s values and politics have no place in the UK. It is crucial that the UK government sends a message that her views are unacceptable, and rejects her nomination as ambassador.”

As of Sunday, it had gathered 1,864 signatures.

Now that that the cabinet has approved her appointment, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem will request a so-called agrement from the Foreign Office in London. Obtaining an agrement — a host country’s confirmation of another state’s envoy to its capital — is usually a diplomatic formality but can prove difficult for certain political appointments with controversial views.

In 2015, for instance, Brazil refused to grant an agrement to Dani Dayan due to his past as a leader of the pro-settlement Yesha Council. Jerusalem initially insisted that he be confirmed as new ambassador to Brasilia but eventually rescinded the nomination. Dayan was appointed consul-general to New York instead, a post he will conclude this summer.

Hotovely, who served as deputy foreign minister between 2015 and 2020, is a staunch supporter of Israel’s settlement movement and a vehement opponent of the two-state solution. She has also advocated for a unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank, something the British government has repeatedly rejected as a blatant violation of international law.

If accepted by the UK, Hotovely will replace Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s former spokesperson for international media, who last month finished his five-year term and returned to Israel. He is expected to return to his old position at the Prime Minister’s Office, but no official appointment has been confirmed.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mark Regev, delivers a speech at the annual Holocaust Memorial Commemoration event, co-hosted with the Israeli Embassy, in central London on January 23, 2019. (Tolga AKMEN / POOL / AFP)

According to the coalition agreement between Likud and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, Hotovely, who speaks fluent English, will remain ambassador in London for the entire term of the unity government’s existence “and cannot be replaced after the rotation agreement is implemented,” which is set to happen in November 2021.

The same arrangement is true for the ambassadors to France, Australia, and the United Nations in New York. So far, Netanyahu has only filled the last position, with Likud Minister Gilad Erdan, who has also been tapped to replace Ron Dermer as Israeli ambassador to the US.

The cabinet on Sunday also unanimously confirmed five additional senior foreign service appointments, including a new ambassador to Russia, Alexander Ben Tzi. The important post has been vacant for nearly a year.

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