Matthew Gould

Matthew Steven Gould CMG MBE (born 20 August 1971) is a British diplomat who was Ambassador to Israel 2010–15. Since 2015 he has been Director, Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the Cabinet Office.[1]

Early life

Gould is descended from Polish Jews who immigrated to the United Kingdom before World War II. His grandfather changed the family name from Goldkorn to Gould.[2] Gould grew up in Wembley,[3] and was educated at St. Paul's School, where he was a contemporary of George Osborne, Patrick Neate, and Ed Vaizey.[4] After St Paul's he spent a year teaching at Nyarukunda Secondary School in Northern Zimbabwe, with the organisation Project Trust.[2] He then went to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he read philosophy and divinity.[3] During this time, he spent a summer in Tanzania with the environmental NGO Frontier, and subsequently published an article on "Termite Feeding Preferences" in the academic journal Sociobiology.[5]


After joining the British Foreign Office in 1993, Gould initially served as Assistant Desk Officer (NATO/Bosnia), Security Policy Department until 1994; and then as Second Secretary in Manila in charge of political affairs and press from 1994 to 1997.[6]

In Manila, Gould launched a programme of co-operation between Britain and the Philippines to combat child abuse, which included bringing detectives from the UK to run training courses for Filipino police officers.[7][8] Gould was awarded the MBE for this work in the 1997 New Year's Honours list, at age 26.[3] Gould was in Manila when Robin Cook visited as Foreign Secretary. Gould wrote a speech for Cook, and was immediately appointed by him as his speechwriter, which he did from 1997 to 1999. During this period, Gould coordinated and led a group of young FCO officials keen to reform the FCO. Initially known as the Young Turks, the project led to the Foresight Report – a major internal review of how the FCO worked. The report was widely credited with helping the FCO to modernise itself and develop new and more open working practices.[3][9] Gould served as Deputy Head of the FCO's Consular Division from 1999 to 2001. In this time, he worked with Baroness Scotland, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, to create a more effective and active approach to the practice of forced marriage. Gould established a new unit in the FCO tasked with combatting forced marriage and helping its victims.[10] From 2002 to 2003, he was Political Counsellor in Islamabad. From 2003 to 2005, Gould was Deputy Head of Mission in Tehran, and Chargé d'Affaires (acting Ambassador) for six months of this time. In June 2004, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard arrested six Royal marines and two Royal Navy sailors on the Shaatt al Arab waterway, and held them for three days. Gould was sent to Khuzestan to negotiate their release, and flew back with them to Teharn.[11]

From 2005 to 2007, Gould was Foreign and Security Policy Counsellor and the Representative of the Joint Intelligence Committee in Washington, DC. Afterwards, from April to July 2007, Gould was Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister, initially with Tony Blair and then under Gordon Brown.[6]

He was Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary from July 2007 to July 2010, running the office of David Miliband for almost all the latter's time as Foreign Secretary, and then of William Hague for the first few months that he was in office. Gould took up his post in Tel Aviv in September 2010.[6]

Ambassador in Israel

Gould was the first Jew to serve as British ambassador to Israel, and spoke of his pride in the position on a number of occasions. In a video message that coincided with his arrival in Israel, Gould outlined his three goals: Explaining Israel to Britain; explaining Britain to Israel and forging a strong partnership between the two. Gould said, “I need to give a strong message from Britain that as Israel goes down the difficult path to peace, Israel isn't alone.” He also said, “Britain is very clear: We regard Israel as an important strategic partner.”[12] Before he was ambassador, Gould was involved in a number of secret meetings organised by Denis MacShane, involving himself, Liam Fox and Adam Werritty. The Foreign Office said in response that "The FCO has total confidence that Matthew Gould has acted appropriately at all times and at no stage was he acting independently, or out of line with government policy."[13]

In November 2011, in discussing religious faith and diplomats, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said that "there is absolutely no reason why our ambassador to Israel should not be Jewish. Any allegations about Matthew Gould's conduct are utterly unsubstantiated. He is a first-class ambassador." Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: "The faith of any British diplomat is irrelevant to their capability to their job. To make suggestions otherwise is wrong and offensive. On a personal note I know from my time in government Matthew Gould embodies all that is good in British diplomacy."[14]

Gould was replaced as ambassador to Israel in 2015.[15]

Holocaust survivors initiative

In 2011, Gould and wife Celia, together with then-Israeli ambassador to London Ron Prosor, launched an appeal in the UK Jewish community to raise money to aid Holocaust survivors in Israel.[16] Approximately half of the £2 million goal has been raised, and six social clubs for survivors are being set up around Israel. The first was officially opened in February 2012, in the presence of Israeli Welfare Minister Moshe Kahlon.[17]

Israel and Iran's nuclear threat

Gould told the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz in November 2011 that efforts at preventing a nuclear program in Iran are continuing and that "The U.K. and Israel stay in very close touch about the threat from Iran."[18]

Israel's 'Boycott bill'

Following the passage by the Israeli Knesset in July 2011 of the 'Boycott Bill', which allows Israeli citizens to sue organisations or persons calling for a boycott against Israel or parts of Israel, and forbids the government from funding such organisations, Gould told the Israeli daily Maariv newspaper, "We are concerned about the passing of this law, which damages the legitimate right to freedom of speech, and which conflicts with the strong Israeli tradition of lively and vigorous political debate."[19]

In November 2011, he warned Israeli MK Ophir Akunis that the passage of a bill that would limit foreign funding to human rights organisations, would "reflect badly on Israel in the international community."[20] Gould has also spoken at major conferences to urge Israel to ensure it is living up to its founding vision of a nation for all its citizens, saying that if Israel's prosperity is to be sustainable, it needs to harness the economic potential of all its communities – including the Arab community of Israel.[21]

Promoting Israeli and UK hi-tech

In October 2010, Gould and the British Embassy in Israel officially launched the UK-Israel Technologies Hub. The Hub is tasked with forging a tech partnership between the two countries. The goal is to position the UK as a natural partner of choice for Israel in technology, and ensure the UK market can make full use of the breadth and quality of Israeli R&D and innovation. The former CEO of NICE Systems and Director-General of the Israeli Finance Minister Haim Shani serves as the Hub's non-executive chairman. The Hub focuses on three major areas in particular: digital, bio-medical, and clean tech. The Hub is "unique as the team is the only dedicated group in the world promoting high-tech cooperation from inside an embassy."[22]

Israeli-UK science initiatives

Gould has been involved in a number of groundbreaking projects aimed at strengthening relations between the two countries: this includes the revamped BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative, through which £10 million will be invested in 15 major UK-Israel research projects over a five-year period. The initiative was officially launched at a conference at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in November 2011, which drew 250 experts in the field, including 60 British scientists from 20 different universities.[23]

International community support for Israel

Gould said in an interview in August 2012, "Israelis might wake up in 10 years time and find out that suddenly the international community has changed, and that patience for continuing the status quo has reduced."[24] Though these comments raised some criticism, Anshel Pfeffer, writing in Haaretz, said, "not only is Gould not betraying his roots, he is doing the Jews of Britain a huge favor,"[25] saying that this will give strength to those British Jews who wish to say something critical of Israel but at the same time show support for Israel. According to an article in the Jewish Chronicle of London, an "Israeli Foreign Ministry source said privately that it was a pity more diplomats did not say what Mr Gould had said."[26]

Encouraging Jewish partnership with Oxfam

Gould said in January 2013, that supporters of Israel in Britain should do more to engage with critics of Israel, saying "If the friends of Israel only engage with those who already agree with them, they will find it difficult to win the argument." This came on the heels of a controversial partnering between the British Board of Deputies, which represents the UK's Jewish community, with Oxfam, which has been criticised for being anti-Israel.[27]

He was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to British interests in Israel, particularly trade and investment scientific and technological co-operation.[28]

Personal life

Gould married Celia Leaberry in 2009, and their daughter Rachel was born at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in April 2011.[29] Their second daughter, Emily Rececca Leaberry Gould was also born in Israel, in May 2013.[30] They lived at the British Ambassador's official residence in Ramat Gan with three cats and two dogs.[31]

Gould received an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University in December 2012.[32]


  1. Mackie, Colin (5 September 2016). "A Directory of British Diplomats" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016.
  2. 1 2 New envoy’s a passionate horse-loving Zionist
  3. 1 2 3 4 Interview: The UK's new Jewish ambassador to Israel
  4. St. Paul's School Graduates involved in Politics
  5. The frequency of termite (Isoptera) damage to tree species in Namakutwa Forest, Tanzania
  6. 1 2 3 HM Ambassador's Career History
  7. Ambassador Bio – About the Speaker
  8. Britain to take action against sex tourists
  9. The New Mandarins: How British Foreign Policy Works, By John Dickie
  10. Forced marriage victims 'need more help'
  11. Britain's new Israel ambassador talks about being Jewish, his time in Iran, and answering to critics
  12. Britain's new ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould
  13. Liam Fox, Adam Werritty, and the curious case of Our Man in Tel Aviv
  14. Jewish envoy not loyal to UK, says Labour MP
  15. Change of Her Majesty's Ambassador to the State of Israel, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 24 February 2015
  16. Holocaust Survivors Appeal Archived 4 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. Ambassador opens social club for Holocaust survivors Archived 14 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. Iran feels pressure of nuclear economic sanctions, U.K. official says
  19. Anti-boycott law not yet making diplomatic waves
  20. Israeli ministers accused of trying to muzzle critics with funding curbs
  21. Ambassador addresses conference on Equality as an Engine for Economic Growth Archived 17 July 2012 at
  22. "Her Majesty's Hub". Archived from the original on 5 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-06., The Jerusalem Report, 9 April 2012
  23. Launch of BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative Archived 28 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. "World might lose patience with Israel within 10 years, says U.K. Ambassador." Haaretz Newspaper, 2 August 2012.
  25. British envoy tells Israelis some un-diplomatic truths, and U.K. Jews should also listen in
  26. Conservative Friends of Israel attack envoy Matthew Gould
  27. Ambassador Gould: Board must engage Israel critics
  28. "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b4.
  29. British ambassador adds a sabra baby girl to his family
  30. "Grapevine: O Jerusalem, O Teddy". Jerusalem Post. The Jerusalem Post. 7 May 2013. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  31. Change of Her Majesty's Ambassador to Israel Archived 4 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  32. Gould: Boycotts divide people and reduce understanding

Offices held

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Dr Peter Hayes
Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby
Preceded by
Sir Tom Phillips
British Ambassador to Israel
Succeeded by
David Quarrey
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