Thirty-eight elected representatives at the Board of Deputies have signed a letter demanding the organisation’s honorary officers condemn Israel’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
Among the letter’s signatories are Sir Ivan Lawrence, the former Conservative MP and chair of the parliamentary group Conservatives Friends of Israel, Ella Rose, the former director of the Jewish Labour Movement, Tal Ofer and Yachad’s former chair Gideon Smith.
Tal Ofer, the deputy for Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue, said:“Our letter shows there is a cross-communal support on the need for the Board of Deputies to speak up on the proposed annexation.
“We remember that previously the Board refused speaking on [the far-right party] Otzma Yehudit but then reversed its decision. It is still not late for the Board of Deputies to do the right thing and express the grave concerns of British Jews on the proposed annexation.”
The letter warns that “any move to annex land in the West Bank, without a negotiated settlement, destroys Israel’s moral authority.”
Annexation would, it continues, “further exacerbate the significant differences that already exist between Israeli and Palestinian rights, with Palestinians living on territory declared as sovereign by Israel, either excluded or denied from participation in democratic functions.”
“In these circumstances, Israel would no longer be able to assert its legitimacy as a democracy. This would be a disastrous outcome for the region, with manifold consequences for both Israelis and Palestinians,” it says.
It also raises concern about a potential impact on British Jews. “Large numbers of our community would begin to ‘disengage’ from Israel, and, as their community leaders fail the test of leadership by staying silent on this issue, the outcome would be hugely detrimental to communal life. The viability of our community is at stake,” it warns.
Amos Schonfield, deputy for Yachad, said: “I am delighted that a growing number of leaders in our community are speaking up against annexation and defending the values of peace and justice we all hold dear.
“As the major representative body of British Jews, the Board should reflect both our community’s pride in Israel’s successes as well as our concerns for its democracy and security.”
It comes as secretary of state Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel this week to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner Benny Gantz.