Settlements minister confirms she’ll be Israel’s new ambassador to the UK

Likud’s Tzipi Hotovely, opponent of two-state solution and advocate of unilateral West Bank annexation, to replace Netanyahu’s ex-spokesperson Mark Regev in London this summer

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)

Settlements Minister Tzipi Hotovely on Thursday said she had accepted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to be Israel’s next ambassador to the United Kingdom.

“It is undoubtedly one of the most senior positions in the foreign service. Within Europe, Britain is terribly important and very friendly [to Israel], certainly under [Prime Minister Boris] Johnson, that is something we have to leverage and do important diplomatic work on,” Hotovely told Army Radio.

But for now, all her efforts are focused on her current job as settlements minister, she added, acknowledging that she has not started preparing herself for the ambassadorship in London.

If confirmed by the Israeli and the British governments, Hotovely, of the premier’s Likud party, will replace Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s former spokesperson to the international media who is finishing his five-year term in July and is expected to return to the Prime Minister’s Office.

In his speech announcing the new unity government last month, Netanyahu said Hotovely would head the hitherto nonexistent Settlements Ministry for three months and then become ambassador to the UK. Hotovely subsequently said that she had not yet agreed to his offer and would have to think about it.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, welcomes Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Downing Street in London, September 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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 time of the unity government’s existence “and cannot be replaced after the rotation agreement was implemented,” which is set to happen after 18 months.

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.

Before Hotovely, 41, can buy a ticket to London, her appointment needs to be okayed by the Civil Service Commission’s committee for senior appointments and then voted on by the cabinet. The Foreign Ministry will then send a request for a so-called agrement to 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.

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