Israel’s former Ambassador to the UK was the subject of several warnings over late-night visits to his official residence, it has been claimed.
Married father-of-six Daniel Taub, a 55-year-old Oxford-educated lawyer, served in London from 2011 until last year during which time officials repeatedly raised concerns over security breaches at his home in St John’s Wood, north London. Several sources told the Guardian that Mr Taub returned to Israel after the visits continued.
His name emerged following days of speculation in Israel over the identity of a senior Israeli diplomat who had become embroiled in an alleged scandal.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had strongly denied claims that appeared online in Israel on Wednesday relating to allegations of aspects of Mr Taub’s behaviour, insisting it had determined that there had been “no criminal or disciplinary” wrongdoing.
The ministry “expressed its disgust at the publication of untruthful allegations regarding one of the finest members of its foreign service”.
It said in a statement: “The ministry emphasises that following a thorough investigation by the inspector general of the ministry, it was determined that there had been no criminal or disciplinary wrongdoing and that the issue related to a breach of security protocol. The issue has been addressed and concluded.”
No Jewish groups were willing to comment on the allegations on Thursday, preferring to adopt a “wait and see” approach.
The alleged circumstances of Mr Taub’s departure emerged amid controversy over whether he should be appointed as the Israeli foreign affairs ministry’s chief legal counsel – a post for which he is regarded as the leading contender. Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has reportedly backed him for that post.
After more than two decades spent at the heart of negotiations between Israel and Palestine, including the role of deputy legal counsel for his foreign affairs ministry, the Finchley-born diplomat was considered a cool, unflappable candidate for a high-profile foreign posting.
On his arrival in London the Jewish Chronicle called him “an almost copperplate ideal Anglo-Jew”, having attended Menorah Primary School in north London and then Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Elstree, Hertfordshire.
His rise through the Anglo-Jewish establishment continued at Oxford University, where the future Conservative leader and Foreign Secretary William Hague was a contemporary with the pair coming into contact through the Oxford Union, prior to completing his studies at Harvard. He gave up his UK citizenship following his emigration to Israel in 1989 and in the space of a few years was considered an authority on humanitarian law, international organisations and counterterrorism.
Mr Taub was involved as an official in both negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in almost every signed agreement throughout the 1990s, and a member of Israel’s negotiating team in the Israel-Syrian negotiations in January 2000.
His time in London was considered a resounding success. Announcing his departure last year, the Israeli Embassy said Mr Taub had overseen the improvement of bilateral trade between the countries in addition to the deepening academic, business and cultural ties.
Mr Taub said that it had been an “extraordinary privilege” to represent Israel in the UK “to help deepen the friendship and cooperation.”
Mr Taub, who was only the second native-born Briton to serve as Israel’s ambassador to the UK, had formally completed his four-year term in June last year, but applied to extend his posting for another year and told people he would be staying. Israel had other ideas and will be sending Mark Regev, Mr Netanayhu’s former foreign language spokesman, in his place with his arrival due next month.
Mr Regev is already well-known in the UK after numerous appearances in the media defending Israel’s military action – most notably during Operation Cast Lead, the 2008-9 conflict that resulted in 13 Israeli and at least 1,166 Palestinian deaths.
“Usually when you see me, it’s bad news,” the Australian-born sharp-suited spokesman quipped during one appearance.
Praised by hard-line supporters of Israeli governments, he has been vilified for “defending the indefensible” in numerous high-profile interviews repeatedly calling UN efforts to investigate alleged war crimes by the Israeli army “a kangaroo court”.
“It’s not difficult to be a spokesman when things are stable, things are good”, a British diplomat told the Independent last year following the announcement of his new posting. “What Regev brings is the ability to hold the line when there is bad publicity, as has often been the case, of course, with Israel.”
That experience will be needed once more should evidence emerge to support the allegations surrounding his predecessor’s departure.