The Senior Rabbi of the Reform Movement, Laura Janner-Klausner, has thrown down the gauntlet to the incoming Israeli ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, by calling for her to “set aside” her political views when she arrives in London in the summer.
Ms Hotovely, a leading Likud politician who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has trenchant and often controversial views which she has expressed forcibly since entering the Knesset in 2009.
Currently Minister of Settlement Affairs and previously Diaspora Minister, she is a self-described “religious right-winger” who opposes a two-state solution, supports annexation and has spoken out against the Reform and Conservative strands of Judaism.
Sir Mick Davis, one of Anglo-Jewry’s leading philanthropists, said: “An Israeli ambassador occupies a unique position. They represent Israel to the Queen and her government — but they also represent Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people, to the Jewish community as well.
“I hope the incoming ambassador will recognise that the role requires equal respect and consideration for every part of our community, including the non-Orthodox and the secular, who contribute hugely to the rich tapestry of Jewish life and to keeping the flame of Zionism alive.”
Labour peer Lord Beecham said: “The appointment of an ultra-right wing ambassador, while typical of the present government of Israel, will do nothing to win friends in the UK — or indeed any other reasonable country”.
Ms Hotovely’s impending appointment sparked a petition this week from 500 young British Jews to the UK Foreign Office, asking for Britain to refuse her as ambassador. It had been organised by the fringe left-wing group, Na’amod, but provoked a counter-petition — so far signed by 145 people — expressing support for the new ambassador.
Rabbi Janner-Klausner was among more than 40 high-profile British Jews (including Sir Mick Davis and Lord Beecham), to write an open letter to departing Israeli ambassador Mark Regev earlier this month, denouncing proposals for annexation of parts of the West Bank.
She told the JC: “Ambassador-designate Hotovely has views as a politician which are in very strong contrast to the views of Reform Judaism.
“I assume she will be putting those views firmly to one side as an ambassador. She will be here in a diplomatic role, as a vehicle of state”.
Rabbi Janner-Klausner said she would be seeking an early meeting with Ms Hotovely and would invite her to visit a Progressive synagogue and meet one of the movement’s rabbis — “in their capacity as a rabbi”.
She added: “Her political views on Palestinians, annexation and religious pluralism clash with our core values — and, just like any ambassador, I expect her to set aside those views.”
The Board of Deputies has said it is ready to work with Ms Hotovely, though President Marie van der Zyl said this week that community opinion could shift if Israel’s annexation proposals did go ahead.
Mark Regev ended his four years and three months as Israel’s ambassador to the UK this week.
According to foreign ministry sources, his departure had been planned in advance and was not connected to any timing around the appointment of Ms Hotovely.