Mum’s the word from many Jewish leaders in UK during Netanyahu’s visit to London

Irsael’s premier and Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak discussed a number of key topics—Iran, security, intelligence, trade—while there was radio silence about the diplomatic stay.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street in London on March 24, 2023. Credit: Avi Ohayon/GOP.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street in London on March 24, 2023. Credit: Avi Ohayon/GOP.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has been advocating for the Jewish community in the United Kingdom since 1760, has a message pinned to the top of its Twitter account wishing “family peace and blessings” during Ramadan to “all of our Muslim friends.”

A recent tweet shares the “delight” of the board—billing itself as the “only democratically elected, cross-communal, representative body in the Jewish community” and consisting of more than 300 deputies elected by synagogues and other Jewish communal groups—to host an event at Parliament honoring Jewish burial societies. Other recent posts address a briefing about an interfaith Passover seder and the board’s president being “honored” to discuss antisemitism with the king of Spain.

The board’s 32,000 Twitter followers would never know that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in London on Friday to meet with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the latter’s official residence.

The board, the Jewish Leadership Council and the chief rabbi’s office did not respond to JNS queries about the significance of the head of the Jewish state spending diplomatic time in London. Representatives of all three penned op-eds in The Jewish Chronicle in the days before the visit without directly mentioning Netanyahu.

A March 21 piece by Claudia Mendoza, co-chief executive of the JLC, was titled “It’s OK for Jews to criticize Israel … but it isn’t a duty.” And the day before Netanyahu’s visit, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, wrote a piece titled “We all care about Israel’s future: let’s start from there.”

Also the day prior to Netanyahu’s visit, Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi penned a Jewish Chronicle op-ed calling for Jewish unity “a sacred responsibility.” The op-ed did not refer to the visit. Mirvis retweeted a post from Jake Wallis Simons, editor of The Jewish Chronicle, about him: “Chief Rabbi breaks silence to urge unity on eve of Netanyahu’s visit to London,” but did not tweet anything about Netanyahu’s visit.

There was also Twitter radio silence from the Jewish Museum London and the National Holocaust Centre and Museum.

When Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich visited London in February, the Board of Deputies of British Jews refused to meet with him and posted on Twitter, in Hebrew, that it rejected the minister’s “abominable” views and “hateful” ideology. “The translation function doesn’t quite convey the meaning of the last phrase. It’s more like: ‘Get back on the plane Bezalel and be remembered as a disgrace forever,’ ” the board added.

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in London on March 24, 2023. Source: Twitter/Suella Braverman.

‘The issue of trade is paramount’

Netanyahu and Suna discussed the Iranian nuclear issue, and the former thanked Suna “for his country’s determined stand on this matter and said that the major powers must step up the pressure and the deterrence on Iran,” according to a release from Netanyahu’s office. The two also addressed “deepening strategic cooperation in security, intelligence and economic matters.”

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed inspectors located “particles” of enriched uranium to 83.7% at a key Iranian nuclear site.

The two leaders agreed to create “a strategic dialogue headed by their national security advisers,” added Netanyahu’s office.

The Israeli prime minister was joined by Israel’s national security adviser and national security council director, ambassador to the United Kingdom, military adviser to the prime minister and others from the prime minister’s office. On the British side, the national security adviser, the diplomatic adviser, the military adviser and the British ambassador to Israel were on hand, according to the release.

Gary Mond, chairman of the National Jewish Assembly—a grassroots Jewish communal body that Mond, former vice president of the Board of Deputies, launched in 2022—told JNS that the group is “delighted” to welcome Netanyahu.

“These talks are important because everything must be done to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power,” Mond told JNS. “The issue of trade between the U.K. and Israel is paramount, as was demonstrated by the recent visit of the U.K. Trade Minister Kemi Badenoch to Israel.”

Mond said that the Jewish Assembly believes that judicial reform and the demonstrations surrounding it in Israel are “issues for the Israeli government and Israeli citizens to resolve.”

“It is not the place of the United Kingdom to interfere in this matter,”  said Mond.

Netanyahu—who was met by protestors in London, many waving Israeli flags—also invited Sunak to visit Israel.

During the 24-hour London visit, Netanyahu also met with Suella Braverman, the British home secretary. “Delighted to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu today to discuss our shared security interests and joint efforts in tackling state threats,” she tweeted. “I value the strong relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom and our partnership to keep people safe.”

It was unclear at press time if any Jewish groups met with Netanyahu.

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