Board of Deputies criticises Yachad for saying Israel is moving away from peace

The Jewish Chronicle, 9/9/15

The Board of Deputies president has criticised one of its member organisations for challenging Israel’s commitment to peace.

Yachad, which supports a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, published an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron in which it expressed concern that Israel was “moving further away from a resolution to the conflict”.

It said it believed Israel was in a position to make the possibility of an peace agreement more likely.

But it added: “We are worried that moves such as the recent announcement of approval for 300 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, and 500 new homes in East Jerusalem, are a further step away from peace.”

The letter, on the Yachad website, has over 700 signatories.

In response, Board president Jonathan Arkush wrote to deputies, saying: “I found it deeply disappointing that in their letter, Yachad could find no positive words to say about a country which has achieved so much under such difficult circumstances.”

While pointing out that the group had a right to express an opinion, Mr Arkush felt its view was not representative of the overwhelming majority of British Jews.

He did not agree with what he said was Yachad’s suggestion that the conflict was one-sided and could be ended by Israel alone.

The Yachad letter, which was also sent to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Middle East minister Tobias Ellwood, coincided with the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UK this week.

Responding to the criticism, Yachad director Hannah Weisfeld said: ‘The letter represents the views of the signatories which currently number over 700 people, including 25 rabbis. It is important that these active, engaged members of the community have a platform to express their concerns about Israel. They made it perfectly clear in the letter when doing so that ‘ any long-term peace requires both parties to make concessions and negotiate’.”

Yachad’s membership of the Board was approved last year by 135 votes to 62.

Such was the controversy surrounding the application that a decision had twice been previously postponed.

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