Israel's Strategic Affairs minister Yuval Steinitz has apologized for comments he made during an interview with The Daily Telegraph, where he expressed concern over recent British hostility towards Israel in media coverage, boycott campaigns and official British policy.
Steinitz told visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague that his assertion that such actions are "some kind of disguised anti-Semitism" were taken out of context.
In the interview with newspaper, when asked about the current relationship between Britain and Israel, Steinitz said: "It's difficult to say. Traditionally we had good relations with Britain and currently we have good intelligence cooperation with Britain and it's very successful."
Steinitz also voiced his disappointment at Professor Stephen Hawking, the well-known British physicist, who announced last month that he would not be attending an academic conference hosted by President Shimon Peres.
"I didn't hear that Prof. Hawking or other British academics, who are so easily boycotting Israel, are boycotting other Middle East countries So some Israelis feel that there is some kind of double standards," Steinitz told the Telegraph.
"The fact that Israel is treated differently, the fact that some people can say so easily, let's do something against Israel, let's boycott Israel, let's boycott Israeli products, this is some kind of disguised anti-Semitism," Steinitz added. "In past times people said that they are against the Jews. Now, especially after the Holocaust, nobody says that they are against the Jews, but people are against the Jewish state."
Steinitz – a former finance minister – said British perceptions of Israel were more negative than those of other Western or European countries and drew comparison with popular sentiment in the US, Canada and Australia.
"There should not be much difference between people in America, Canada, Britain and Australia," he said. "[They have] the same language, very similar cultures. And still in America, Canada, in Australia in opinion polls, most citizens support Israel with a very warm feeling. In Britain it is much less.