Hundreds of Israel supporters to gather in London to back Netanyahu’s UK visit


Hundreds of pro- and anti-Israel demonstrators are set to protest outside Downing Street today, ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s meeting with David Cameron in London.

The demonstration organised by the Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign has attracted the support of more than 4,300 people online.

It prompted a planned counter-demonstration, set up by a by a coalition of pro-Israel groups, called “Stand in solidarity with Israel”.

The Zionist Federation (ZF), Board of Deputies, Sussex Friends of Israel (SFI), We Believe in Israel, Jewish Leadership Council, Israel Advocacy Movement, Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland and the Alliance of Israelis in Great Britain will congregate in Whitehall.

Simon Cobbs, a founding member of the SFI, said that the counter-protest, which he hoped would draw 300 pro-Israel supporters, was “not about an Israeli prime minister or policy; it's about Israel’s right to exist.”

ZF executive director Arieh Miller agreed, saying: “This anti-Zionist protest has nothing to do with the actions of Prime Minister Netanyahu. These people would stop any Israeli politician, artist, sportsperson or academic from being able to freely enter the country.

“It’s up to us to declare proudly that representatives of the only democracy in the Middle East are always welcome here.”

The protests will come after a petition calling for Mr Netanyahu to be arrested for war crimes passed 100,000 signatures, which could trigger a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Joseph Cohen, who founded the Israel Advocacy Movement, said that “the allegation that Netanyahu or Israel committed war crimes is ludicrous. The efforts that the IDF went to preserve civilian life were far greater than many other efforts taken around the world, so the accusations of war crimes must be based on political objectives.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the PSC said: “The strength of feeling amongst the public against a government welcome for Benjamin Netanyahu is apparent from the numbers who have shown support on the Facebook event page, and those who have signed the e-gov petition, along with those who signed PSC’s letter to David Cameron urging sanctions, not a welcome.”

A major security operation will be in place for Mr Netanyahu who arrives in the UK today.

In their bilateral talks, the prime ministers will discuss issues including the Iran nuclear deal, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the situation in the Gaza Strip and the Syrian civil war.

Mr Netanyahu is also expected to meet communal leaders during his trip.

He is due to travel on to New York to meet members of the Quartet – the EU, the United States, Russia and the United Nations - at the UN General Assembly to discuss the possibility of Israel renewing a diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, welcomed the visit.

He said: “The Jewish Leadership Council proudly welcomes Prime Minister Netanyahu to the United Kingdom. His visit is particularly significant as our community enjoys great freedom and security in the United Kingdom and our deep and close relationship with the state of Israel plays an ever more important role in our culture and identity. It is for that reason that we are delighted to join members of our community in Whitehall to show solidarity with Prime Minister Netanyahu during his visit.

“I truly hope that Britain will continue to be at the forefront of protecting Israel, enforcing the provisions of the Iran agreement if it is ratified and standing against Iran’s dangerous destabilising policies in the Middle East.

“The success of the trade and cultural ties the United Kingdom and Israel enjoy are well known and I hope that the political link continues to emulate them.”

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