Board President 'inundated' with support over annexation stance

Marie van der Zyl has reiterated Board's backing for two-state solution and recognised diversity of opinion in community


Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl has been ''inundated'' with supportive emails over the past few days over her decision to not speak out about an Israeli government plan to annex parts of the West Bank, the JC has learned.

Sources said that President has ''a lot of support not just among Deputies but in the community as well'' over her stance on Israel.

Mrs van der Zyl has continued to stress her support for a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

One expert in Board affairs said that of the communal organisation's 250 voting members, there were likely to be up to 190 Deputies who continued to support Mrs van der Zyl's stance on the issue. 

According to the source, the 60 others were likely to support the stance of groups such as Yachad, which has called for the Board to speak out against what it claims is the "unilateral annexation of the West Bank".

Supportive emails sent to Mrs van der Zyl are said to have come from Deputies and members of the wider community, and have expressed a variety of views on Israel and on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition with the Blue and White party.

But the dominant message has been that Board should not get itself entangled in the affairs of the Israeli government - especially when issues such as covid-19 and the Labour antisemitism row are still so dominant in the UK.

On Sunday the JC revealed how around 500 UK Jewish students and youth movement members had put their names to a letter warning that the Board’s historical support for a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians will be "impossible to achieve’’ if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with the proposed annexation of a portion of the West Bank.

It also suggested that the Board's "relevance’’ to the younger generation would be questioned if it did not speak out.

A second letter emerged on Monday signed by 560 people. 

Among the signatories, described in the letter as “British Jews who support Israel’s right to thrive as a Jewish and democratic state”, were 10 rabbis and the Labour peer Lord Jeremy Beecham.

The letter warned that any failure to “defend the two-state solution against threats made to it by all parties to the conflict” would undermine the Board of Deputies and its “credibility and integrity.”

“The Board’s statements of support for a two-state solution are worth nothing if the Board fails to speak up against a unilateral moves of annexation,” it said.

Yachad - which describes itself as being ''pro Israel and pro Peace'' - was heavily involved in the organisation of both letters, which were backed by J-Soc members from many  universities and youth movements including Habomim Dror, FZY, LJY-Netzer and Noam, and from the Jewish Labour Movement.

With many signatories listing their shul affiliation, it was evident the campaign had also attracted support from young United Synagogue members.

Yachad's opponents argued that it represents a minority view within the Jewish community as a whole - although they are better organised than other left-leaning communal groups of the past.

At the last Board plenary meeting, earlier this month, there was vocal support for the Board President's stance from a number of senior Deputies.

Mrs van der Zyl has said: “There is such a huge diversity of opinion in the Jewish community, which is of course reflected in the Board as a democratic representative body.

“The Board has to be a place where opinions can be expressed without abuse and with tolerance to enable us to have these discussions.

“There isn’t going to be a consensus that is going to be reached and I am very concerned that the Jewish community stays together as a community at what is clearly a divisive time.” 

She added: “Almost all serious peace proposals had included the incorporation of the major settlement blocks in Israel to safeguard security in the Jordan Valley as part of the final agreement.”

She added that the Board wished to see the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators reach agreement on any final deal.

Mrs van der Zyl added that the UK Jewish community was “in the main Zionist” and “our interests with the Israeli government overlap”.

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