Board leader: views could change on annexation

The representative body says it has the backing of the 'overwhelming majority' in not taking a view on the Israeli move


The President of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, suggested that opinions could shift within the Jewish community if Israel went ahead with its plan to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank..

In a digital interview livestreamed on Tuesday, she said “the overwhelming majority” in the community was for the Board “not to speak out against annexation”.

But she said, “If annexation happens – and I say if – opinion could change again, depending on what happens next.”

The Board leader was in conversation with the newly appointed joint interim director of Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Charley Baginsky.

The Board has come under strong pressure in recent weeks to take a view, including from a petition backed by hundreds of Jewish youth urging opposition to the Israeli plan.

Liberal rabbis and cantors joined critics of the Israeli proposal in an official statement last week, warning it could diaspora engagement with Israel.

Mrs van der Zyl said she believed she was the first Board president to acknowledge there were divisions, rather than consensus, on Israel within the community.

There was not one reason for the Board’s policy, but “nuanced reasons… which could change,” she said.

“One of the reasons is that lots of people think the Board of Deputies should be here for British Jews, shouldn’t be speaking about Israeli politics, we don’t have any influence in Israel. Some people think we shouldn’t be talking out at all.”

Rabbi Baginsky suggested that it sounded "from what you said that if annexation does go ahead, there might be a different statement... then maybe the Board might have something stronger to say."

Ms van der Zyl replied there was  "no indication that there is going to be annexation. If there is, and how it's done, that may alter people's views in different ways. I just think at the moment it's not happening and if it does, we'll have to wait and see what happens."

The “huge variety” of opinion should be recognised and people have space to put forward their views, she said.

“But the majority of opinions that I am aware of – although we don’t have any firm data across the community – is that people feel the Board should not be commenting.”

While it supported a two-state solution with a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state, she said, “we are not taking a fixed position on which town should sit on either side of the border and we will be delighted to accept whatever the Israelis and the Palestinians agree.”

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