A youth petition backed by sections of the British Jewish community is calling on the Board of Deputies to speak out against any possible moves by the Israeli government to annex sections of the West Bank.
The ‘Communal Youth Letter’, which appeared on Thursday, calls on the Board to “speak up against the unilateral annexation of the West Bank, which will have far-reaching ramifications not only for the region and its inhabitants but also for us as Jews in the diaspora.
“We recall the Board of Deputies’ historical support for a negotiated two-state solution,” the letter continues, “which means that when Israel takes decisive unilateral action that will render a two-state solution impossible to achieve, the Board of Deputies has a responsibility to speak out against it.”
The appeal states that “being a true friend to Israel means speaking out,” and noted that any possible annexation would impact the safety of the Jewish diaspora and render an Israel that was both “Jewish and democratic” impossible.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared his intention to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley and other areas of West Bank, and the coalition deal struck between Likud and Blue and White last week included a condition to put the plans to Knesset vote this summer.
The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), the Labour Party’s Jewish affiliate, has backed the petition.
A spokesperson for the JLM said: “The Jewish Labour Movement is pleased to support this grassroots letter as a member organisation of the Board of Deputies. It’s important to voice our opposition to annexation and we are proud that many of our young members have signed it.”
Liron Velleman, the Policy Officer at the Jewish Labour Movement, explained his signature stating: “If diaspora Jewry wants to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state, now is the time to speak up.
“I do think the Board will have to respond to the strength of feeling among young people in the Jewish community,” he added. “Staying silent is making a political decision and will pose serious questions regarding the relevance of the Board of Deputies for our generation.”
LJY-Netzer, the Youth Movement of Liberal Judaism, stated that it had encouraged members to sign “as a basic way to make a stand against the actions of the Israeli government and urge the Board of Deputies to speak out on behalf of the whole UK Jewish community.
“As the Board of Deputies recognises the majority consensus of British Jews for a two state solution, we urgently ask them to condemn Netanyahu's latest plans,” it continued.
The British government joined 10 other European countries on Thursday warning Jerusalem against annexation, while on Friday 130 MPs signed an open letter urging Boris Johnson to impose economic sanctions on Israel if it went ahead with the move.
A Board of Deputies spokesperson said: "The best indications of British Jewish opinion are that a clear majority support a two-state solution of a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state and that remains our position.
Referring to a counter-petition that has called on the Board to "remain silent", the spokesperson continued that: "However, as can be seen from these two petitions, there is a clear diversity of views in the Jewish community over which towns should be on which side of an eventual border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
"Ultimately, it is not the job of the Board of Deputies to decide on the exact position of the border and we will leave this to Israeli and Palestinian negotiators."