Jewish communal leaders have welcomed their meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the UK to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.
Jewish Leadership Council chairman Jonathan Goldstein, Board of Deputies’ President Jonathan Arkush, Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Zionist Federation chairman Paul Charney all gave a glowing assessment of Israel’s PM.
In a private meeting with Netanyahu and his wife Sara, community leaders heard the Israeli leader’s personal recollections of his family’s links to British Jewry, and Rabbi Janner-Klausner was able to share old family photos involving the pair’s fathers.
Charney said the meeting was “a chance to meet the man, rather than the figure,” and praised Netanyahu for being “wonderfully personable,” with Bibi recalling British Jewish lecturers and their influence on his family’s thinking.
Goldstein said one of the main points Netanyahu posed was that the Islamist threat seen in terror attacks in Britain and Europe was the same threat as Israel had been facing for years.
He said Netanyahu was keen to explain how Iran’s regional influence was spreading, even bringing his own map to the meeting, and how other issues “would resolve themselves once the Palestinians recognised Israel’s right to exist”.
Meanwhile Rabbi Janner-Klausner pressed Netanyahu on the concerns of some younger Diaspora Jews that Israel was losing some of its founding values, namely the connection between of Judaism and humanism.
“I said I thought some young people were concerned about some Israeli policies, and saw in this an erosion of values,” she said. “He disagreed, but amicably, and explained why he disagreed. I’m really hoping that as well as listening, he heard.”
Board president Jonathan Arkush said: “I regard it as extremely significant that the Israeli Prime Minister wanted to talk with us and hear our views directly. We, in turn, had the opportunity to hear the Mr Netanyahu’s direct assessment about Israel’s strategic position in our fast-changing world.”