Board stays out of export licence row

By Leon Symons, July 23, 2009

The Board of Deputies has resolved to stay out of any row between the Foreign Office and Israel over the decision to cancel five export licences.

It is adopting a “wait and see” strategy and will get involved only if receiving an indication from Israel that it should take up the case. The Foreign Office’s decision to ban the export of parts for Israel’s naval vessels was believed to have been prompted by a concerted campaign by pro-Palestinian groups.

Deputies who queued up to speak at Sunday’s plenary meeting in central London were divided on the issue. Some fervently advocated protests. Others felt these would not achieve anything and that the Board should keep its powder dry for more serious matters.

Vice-president Jerry Lewis supported a cautious line reasoning: “There are times when it is better to hold fire and not give the oxygen of publicity. If you start bellyaching about five export licences, you are giving publicity to the whole of the opposition.”

However, Sir Ivan Lawrence urged the Board to “object strongly on an attack against Israel which is illogical and unjustified. We should always fight on boycotts.”

Calling for greater Israel advocacy, Liverpool Labour MP Louise Ellman said that “people should be aware of much bigger campaigns in and out of Parliament”.

They were about “increasing pressure on Israel and not accepting that it has a right to defend itself,” the MP added. “We should address ourselves to the wider campaigns.”

Former MP Eric Moonman said: “It is very easy to react on every occasion. We need to have a strategy. It is very important for us to listen to the Israeli embassy. If they felt it was the right time to launch a campaign, they would say so.”

Winding up the debate, international division chair and vice-president Paul Edlin said the Board needed to have an ongoing dialogue with the Foreign Office. “We have to look at the whole picture. Of course we have to be vigilant but a huge outburst now is not justified.”

Last updated: 11:27am, July 23 2009