One of Britain’s biggest philanthropists to Israel has said Israel’s political leaders are eroding “vast swathes” of support from the Jewish Diaspora by “violating” the values it holds dear, in a withering critique of the state’s new unity government.
Sir Mick Davis, a former chair of the Jewish Leadership Council and of UJIA, targeted both Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz and lamented a lack of “principled” leadership needed to tackle major issues within society.
Writing in Jewish News, he said: “The ‘keep your wallets open and your mouths shut’ model of Israel-Diaspora relations was viable when Diaspora Jewry saw in Israel’s political leadership an embodiment of its values, rather than a violation of them.
“As large swathes of the Diaspora see Israel’s liberal democratic values as under threat, Diaspora Zionism will dwindle, leaving the case for Israel solely in the hands of hard-right cheerleaders.”
Sir Mick, a former chief executive of the governing Conservative Party, has given millions of pounds to Israel and Israeli causes over the years, and penned his hard-hitting lament this week as week as the Jewish state marked its 72nd birthday.
In it, he derides the new Israeli unity government of Netanyahu and Gantz, the latter having sworn to get rid of the former only weeks ago, now in coalition together with an agenda that includes annexing much of the West Bank.
He pointed to an erosion of principled government within Israel, which he classed as “an existential threat,” the state now having “a government the public didn’t vote for, led by a prime minister seemingly driven by holding onto power, propped up by parties who had previously pledged on principle not to govern with him”.
He added: “In the country of Ben Gurion, Begin and Rabin, principle appears to be a relic of political history. Avoiding corruption charges is not a principle for governance, nor is promising your voters not to serve a prime minister facing such charges only to U-turn and enable him.”
Davis said Israeli politicians needed to address the country’s strategic challenges, such as future relations with the Palestinians, an acute lack of social mobility and the increasing fragmentation of Israeli society, but lacked the principles and integrity to do so.
He said that Israeli leaders had likewise “taken for granted” good relations with the Diaspora, but that these were in fact “stagnating,” warning that “the very concept of Jewish peoplehood, which underpins Zionism, needs updating”.