Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Daniel Ayalon, is to visit Britain this week, the first visit by a senior Israeli politician since an arrest warrant for war crimes was issued against Tzipi Livni in December last year. As a government minister Ayalon has diplomatic immunity and will not face the threat of arrest when he arrives at Heathrow Airport on Sunday.
Among the issues that Ayalon is expected to raise in his meetings with British government officials is the subject of arrest warrants against Israelis held to be responsible for the suspected war crimes in Gaza last year. Also on the agenda will be the campaign to boycott Israeli goods, the so-called "de-legitimisation" of Israel and Israel's desperate desire to prevent the development of Iran's nuclear capabilities.
The Deputy Foreign Minister is due to visit two leading British institutions on Monday 8th February: Oxford University, at which he will deliver a speech and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, where he is scheduled to lead a public brainstorming session.
Membership of Yisrael Beiteinu
Daniel Ayalon joined Yisrael Beiteinu in 2008. This tells you a lot about the man, considering the party's policies. Yisrael Beiteinu, which literally translates to "Israel is Our Home", is an extreme right-wing, ultra-nationalistic political party in Israel established by Avigdor Lieberman. It is currently the third largest party in the Knesset (after Kadima and Likud).
The campaign slogan for the party in the 2009 Israeli election was "No Loyalty, No Citizenship". This policy led to the proposal to ban Palestinian events which commemorate the Nakba (the "Catastrophe" in 1948 when, on the creation of the state of Israel, many Palestinians were massacred and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee from their homes) and the party called for prison sentences of up to three years for anyone who ignored the ban. Party leaders and members have also threatened to "execute" Palestinian members of the Knesset if they declare Israel's "Independence Day" to be "Nakba Day", or if they speak to Hamas.
Yisrael Beiteinu also promotes mass Jewish immigration to Israel. It is in favour of a two-state solution in which Israel would get large portions of the West Bank on which illegal Israeli settlements are already built and Palestinians would get a portion of Israel on which there is currently a large Palestinian population.
Branded an "Arab-hating racist", the founder of the party is extremist Avigdor Lieberman (the Israeli Foreign Minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government), a former nightclub bouncer from Moldova who has threatened to attack most of Israel's Arab neighbours, including Egypt, which is an ally of Israel. The Financial Times has reported calls for Lieberman's resignation by members of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) who have branded him a "war instigator". This partly follows from the extremely provocative statements he has made about Syria, namely that the Syrians should forget about the Golan Heights, for they will "never be returned". He also made reference to Syria losing the "next war" with Israel. He has been called "the most dangerous politician in the history of the State of Israel" and promotes the expulsion of all "disloyal" Palestinians from Israel.
This is the man with whom Daniel Ayalon has chosen to align himself. Only last month, on Lieberman's orders, Ayalon caused a diplomatic incident after he summoed the Turkish ambassador, Ahmet Oğuz Çelikkol, for an official reprimand, during which he refused to shake the ambassador's hand and is reported to have muttered in Hebrew to the reporters in the room, "We just want it to be seen that he is seated below us and that there is only one flag here, and as you can see, we are not smiling."
- From July 2002 to November 2006 Daniel Ayalon served as Israel's Ambassador to the United States. He was a main player in securing an agreement for $10 billion in US grants and loan guarantees to Israel; as well as the bilateral trade that reached $20 billion and another $10 billion in investment.
- From 1997-2002, Ayalon was the Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, as well as Chief Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
- From 1989 to 1997 Ayalon was a member of Israel's Foreign Service and was an Israeli Consul in Panama, as well as a Member of Israel's Permanent Mission to the UN.
- Before his governmental service Ayalon worked as a senior financial executive in the private sector. He graduated from Tel Aviv University with a BA in Economics and Labour Studies, and holds an MBA from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, USA. Ayalon was also a Captain in the IDF Armoured Corps.