Belfast Telegraph

Israeli envoy on peace process tour to Stormont sees MLAs bicker

by ricky thompson

An Israeli diplomat who travelled to Stormont to learn about the peace process has told how he watched MLAs argue among themselves.

Senior official Yiftah Curiel revealed he felt "superfluous" as unionist and nationalist Assembly Members clashed during a meeting in Parliament Buildings.

"I could have just gone and left," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Mr Curiel said he gave a short address about the Middle East and then MLAs "started basically arguing among themselves" over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I felt fairly superfluous at that point," the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London added.

MLAs have downplayed Mr Curiel's claims.

The UUP's Roy Beggs described Mr Curiel as having "more of a listening role", but also admitted there were disagreements relating to Muammar Gadaffi and "the fact that Libya supported the IRA" by providing them with arms. He said Sinn Fein's Pat Sheehan, who was in attendance, had highlighted that civilians were killed as a result of Israeli army action.

Mr Beggs said he pointed out actions of the Palestinian side. SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said he had no part in the disagreements and called his part in the talks "constructive".

Mr Curiel told students at Belfast Metropolitan College it was clear to him that issues were still ongoing in Northern Ireland.

The diplomat went on to say he respected the MLAs' comments and added: "There's this aspiration or idea that, once we bring about peace, everybody will love each other and we will be one happy family. That's a mistake because that does not happen."

On the Middle East conflict, he stressed: "We should aim for what you have here, which is a peaceful co-existence, more or less."

PROFILE

Senior official Yiftah Curiel is the spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in London.

A career diplomat, he has also served at Israel's embassy in Addis Ababa and as cultural attache at the Israeli mission in Buenos Aires.

One previous position was within the Strategic Affairs Division, as deputy director of the department for non-proliferation of WMDs.

He came to Belfast last month for a Kristallnacht commemoration at Belfast Synagogue also attended by DUP junior minister Jonathan Bell.

Kristallnacht was a series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on November 9-10, 1938.

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