A deputy speaker of the Knesset has said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will have to “change his behaviour” if relations are to be restored between the party and its Israeli equivalent.
Hilik Bar, a left-leaning Israeli politician who heads the committee dealing with UK-Israel relations, said the issue stemmed from Corbyn’s closeness with “elements in the Middle East who want to live here instead of us”.
It follows an angry letter by Israeli Labor leader Avi Gabbay cutting ties between the two party leaderships, accusing Corbyn of “allowing anti-Semitic statements and actions” and of showing “hostility towards the Jewish community”.
Speaking to Jewish News in Israel this week, Bar said he had boycotted the last two Labour Party annual conferences “out of protest” against Corbyn, who has been a well-known critic of Israeli policy for 30 years.
“So it [Gabbay’s letter] wasn’t an action out of nowhere,” said Bar. “It was a continuation. After we saw actions by the Jewish community, and his lack of action… we wanted to say ‘enough is enough’ and be in-line with our conscience.”
Bar added: “We can choose our friends and our allies, and he is not one of the second. I wish it were not the case.”
Union leader and Corbyn ally Len McClusky recently blasted Gabbay’s letter, accusing the Israeli Labor leader of a “cynical and outrageous smear… The idea that Corbyn has ever shown hostility towards the Jewish community, or allowed anti-Semitic actions, is a disgusting libel of which Gabbay should be ashamed”.
McClusky added: “In my view, withdrawing those remarks is essential for any resumption of normal relations with the Israeli Labor Party.”
Bar claimed Corbyn’s friends were not supporters of the two-state solution and urged him to speak out more “loudly” on Israel’s right to exist.
On the stalled peace process, Bar claimed the Israeli government “made a terrible diplomatic mistake” in still having not officially responded to the Arab peace initiative.
He said: “We know this conflict is solvable. If the two-state solution is the only way of avoiding one state why can’t it happen now. One state is a disaster for the Palestinians, but maybe more so for us.”
Although he decried a lack of leadership on both sides towards peace, Bar warned those who looked to a post-Mahmoud Abbas era, warning the younger generation could be more “nationalist”.
Listen to the Jewish Views podcast: