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Israel approves raft of new envoys, including controversial ambassador to UK

The appointment of the openly Islamophobic Hotovely comes when Israel's annexation plans are proving divisive
Hotovely, a rising power in Netanyahu’s Likud party, is known for her Jewish supremacist views and disregard for the two-state solution (AFP)

Israel has confirmed half a dozen new ambassadors and consul-generals, including envoys to countries that will have a large impact on the Israeli government’s policies, security and development programmes.

Among the appointments is Tzipi Hotovely, a right-wing religious nationalist, who is being made ambassador to the United Kingdom after a stint at the settlement affairs ministry.

Hotovely, a rising power in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is known for her Jewish supremacist views and disregard for the two-state solution. She is openly Islamophobic and supports the full annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Her appointment comes as the British and Israeli governments are at odds over Israel’s now delayed plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

When news she would be arriving in London broke last month, a petition was set up asking the UK’s Foreign Office to reject her nomination. It has now been signed by 1,800 members of Britain’s Jewish community.

Other appointments include Irit Ben-Abba Vitali as ambassador to Beijing, and Edward Shapira as consul-general in Shanghai.

The Chinese presence has been increasingly felt in Israel in recent years. However, tensions between Washington and Beijing have pressured the Israeli government into turning down a number of large Chinese investments in recent months.

Alexander Ben-Zvi, meanwhile, will become ambassador to Moscow. Israel’s relationship with Russia is of strategic importance due to Moscow’s ongoing involvement in the war in Syria.

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As a chief backer of President Bashar al-Assad, Russia fights alongside Israel’s arch-foes Iran and Hezbollah. However, the Israeli and Russian governments have longstanding ties, with Moscow potentially serving as a backchannel to Tehran and a deterrent for greater Iranian influence in Syria.

Alex Goldman-Scheinman takes up the position of ambassador in Minsk. Belarus is one of a number of former Soviet states from which emigrants move to Israel. It is also in the midst of the most tightly fought presidential election in decades.

“These appointments constitute a significant landmark, after a long period in which some of the posts were not filled,” Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi said on Sunday.

“These are professional and experienced people who will be stationed in a number of important capitals and will help advance the diplomatic, economic and security interests of Israel in this challenging period.”