Methodists will hold off on boycott

The Methodist Church will defer any move to boycott Israel for at least the next two years.

Church members agreed not to put forward motions on Israel and the Palestinians until after their 2016 conference.

Delegates voted to back the church council's recommendations following a 90-minute debate at their annual conference in Birmingham on Monday.

Seven resolutions were carried, agreeing to the two-year "reflection" period. Discussions will also take place with the Council for Christians and Jews.

Some delegates argued that two years was too long. One minister said Methodists were being "gagged". But a vote on replacing the church council's recommendations with measures more critical of Israel failed.

Reverend Ruth Gee, conference president, said: "There is no attempt to silence individual Methodist people. The council felt people needed time to look at it."

The conference was told that investigating measures against Israel could cost as much as £60,000. Church staff spent more than one-third of their time dealing with the issue, officials said.

Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush said: "The debate was far more balanced than some we have heard in previous years."

Four years ago the church passed a policy to boycott products of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

    Last updated: 4:15pm, July 3 2014