Incoming ambassador to UK Tzipi Hotovely arrives in London

Former minister for settlement affairs, currently self-quarantined in her new residence, now waiting for date to present her letter of credence to Queen Elizabeth II

Raphael Ahren is a former 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)

Israel’s incoming ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tzipi Hotovely, last week arrived in London with her family. Currently self-quarantining, she is waiting for a date to present her letter of credence to Queen Elizabeth II before she formally assumes her new position.

“Delighted and excited to be here. Proud to represent my country,” she tweeted on Thursday, together with a photo of herself, her husband and daughter dragging suitcases into their new London residence.

The appointment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former minister for settlement affairs has been somewhat controversial in Britain. An online petition by Jewish pro-Palestinian activists urging the UK government to reject her on the grounds of her right-wing policies garnered more than 1,800 signatures.

“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.”

Given Hotovely’s outspoken support for the settlement movement and for Netanyahu’s plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank, there had been some question about whether the Foreign Office would welcome her as ambassador. But once Jerusalem suspended its annexation plans in the framework of a peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates, Her Majesty’s government accepted her nomination by granting her a so-called agrement.

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.

As Israel’s ambassador in London, Hotovely is replacing Mark Regev, who has since returned to Israel and retaken his old position as a spokesperson and media adviser to Netanyahu.

In late August, Hotovely, who served as deputy foreign minister between 2015 and 2020, participated in Netanyahu’s meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Jerusalem.

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 former minister Gilad Erdan, who has also been tapped to replace Ron Dermer as Israeli ambassador to the US.

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