Isaac Herzog this week invited Jeremy Corbyn to Israel as he waded into the anti-Semitism scandal engulfing his sister party.
The leader of Israel’s Labour Party said he had been “appalled and outraged” by comments made by a string of UK Labour councillors and an MP from a party with a “distinguished history of fighting racism in every form”.
But hours after reports that Herzog suggested he was considering suspending ties with the UK Labour Party, the general secretary of Israel Labour, Hilik Bar, reassured Labour Friends of Israel’s Joan Ryan this was not the case during a phone call on Tuesday.
In a letter to Corbyn, Herzog wrote: “Part of the story of
Israel’s establishment was the context of centuries of anti-
Jewish discrimination and dehumanisation and the subsequent need for a state from which the Jewish people could defend themselves.
“While there are many within the British Labour Party that support Israel and fight every day against anti-Semitism, and despite the fact the views recently expressed represent a minority within the party, this cannot diminish the importance of dealing with this serious problem.”
He invited Corbyn to lead a delegation to Yad Vashem to see “the last time the Jews were forcibly ‘transported’ was not to Israel but to their deaths” – a reference to a post promoted by MP Naz Shah advocated the transfer of Israelis to America.
Israel’s new UK ambassador Mark Regev said he would like to meet the Labour leader to discuss the issue.
He told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show:“If you’re saying the Jewish people don’t have that right to sovereignty and independence, you have to ask why you are holding Jews to a different standard. And there is a word for that.
“Of course they have the right to criticise the government of Israel. Israeli people do that every day. It’s not about criticising Israel. It’s about demonising the Jewish state.
“The comments of the past few weeks are demonising, a vilification of my country and its very right to exist. There’s a difference between legitimate criticism and hate speech.”