British Israel Relationship
A true leader is a both a politician and a public servant. His Excellency Neil Wigan, the newly appointed Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the State of Israel is the 24th UK Ambassador to represent his country. “The Ambassador represents Her Majesty The Queen and the UK government in the country to which they are appointed. They are responsible for the direction and work of the Embassy and its Consulates, including political work, trade and investment, press and cultural relations, and visa and consular services.” Embassy website
Ambassador Wigan joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2000. His first overseas posting from August 2002 to January 2006 was as Head of the Political section at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv. “Israel was my first overseas post, and I have always wanted to return. I am delighted to be Ambassador at an exciting time in the UK-Israel partnership. I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.”
Recently he had the opportunity to meet with a room full of British subjects and a few token non-Brits in the lovely City of Netanya. He received a standing ovation at a luncheon meeting of HOB Israel – The Association of British Immigrants. “H.O.B. helps British immigrants from the UK and Ireland further their integration by providing social, educational and cultural activities at branches throughout the country, as well as at national events. Currently, H.O.B. has branches in Holen, Rehovot, Netanya, Tel Aviv, and the ‘FiveTowns’.” Esther Miller, Chair of HOB Israel
The Ambassador warmly greeted the crowd, “This is my first chance to meet with the British community in Israel, and to get to know those who are not only living here; but, who still retained a close connection with the United Kingdom.”
He described his previous term of duty at the Embassy in Tel Aviv, which was during the second intifada with its major security problems, the disengagement from Gaza and the stroke that incapacitated Prime Minister Sharon. “In those days relations between Israel and the Palestinians took up about 80% of the Embassy ‘s work, leaving 20% for the rest.” After leaving Israel, he served as the British Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to Somalia.
Ambassador Wigan prior experience gave him an education of the country and to actually see that the proportions of the Embassy’s work today has been completely reversed. The relationship between Britain and Israel is broader and more sophisticated than it had been previously, thanks to the hard work of his predecessors.
Relations with the Palestinians are still important and of great interest to the Prime Minister and to the British government; however, he is spending the majority of his time on other matters. The Ambassador expressed, he would like to cement the warm relationship working on the Iran nuclear issue and security relationship. Bilateral trade that is growing 15% yearly, and arrangements are in place for this to continue after Brexit: especially in high-tech. Helping British companies tap into Israel startup that gives a global edge. The UK Israel Tech Hub a not-for-profit venture operating out of the British Embassy Israel was founded in 2011 by the UK government as a means to drive economic growth by helping British companies’ partner with “cutting-edge” technology from Israel.
Israeli universities are also “cutting edge”. The research and innovation taking place in Israeli universities was extraordinary, and cooperation is being encouraged between the best British and Israeli academics. He described some of the work that he had seen at Israeli universities as being “quite extraordinary, something between science fiction and magic”. In his short time as Ambassador, he visited 6 of Israel’s 7 universities.
Last week he visited Ramat David airbase, where an RAF jet landed for the first time since 1948.
There is a huge flow of people between Israel and Britain which is strengthening the relationship in a way that it has never been previously. Israel is the largest destination from Luton Airport, with approximately 250,000 British tourist per year.
The British Embassy in Israel maintains and develops relations between the UK and Israel. According the Embassy’s website, “We promote Britain’s security, prosperity and well-being, and regional peace, through partnership with Israel. We deal with political, commercial, security and economic questions of interest to the UK and Israel and provide consular assistance to British nationals in Israel.”
“With a mixture of humour, diplomacy, and wisdom the Ambassador went on to answer a wide range of questions from the audience dealing among other things with the problems of renewing British passports, the financing of terrorism, the possibility of moving the embassy to Jerusalem, UNRWA, and the availability of Worcestershire Sauce!” Elkan D Levy, well known British/Israeli Historian and Lecturer
“It was a great honour for HOB Netanya to host our new British Ambassador H.E. Mr Neil Wigan. He is a charming diplomatic diplomat and endeared himself to our members. We hope he will enjoy his second time here, and that we will have the pleasure of his company in the near future.” Jackie Phillips
Esther Miller, National Chairman of HOB thanked the Ambassador for his fascinating and enlightening talk, and also expressed the gratitude of all present and to the Netanya branch led by Jackie Phillips who had organised the totally British afternoon.