‘Bibi doesn’t speak for me’: UK Jewish leaders clash over Netanyahu’s Washington trip

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.(Reuters / Ammar Awad)
Two leaders of the British Jewish community clashed over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the US Congress on Tuesday.

In an exchange of emails, Jewish Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush and the organization's treasurer Laurence Brass clashed over the Israeli Prime Minister’s controversial speech to the United States Congress.

Brass recently announced he will step down from his post in May. When declaring his resignation, he said he had been “bursting” to criticize Israeli policy for many years. Arkush will be standing for the presidency of the Jewish Board of Deputies in the next election.

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress caused widespread controversy, particularly his remarks on Iran’s nuclear program. In the email exchange Brass said the Israeli premier led a “dishonored administration.”

The rift began when Brass retweeted a message from lawyer Adam Cannon that read: “Netanyahu boards plane for Washington: ‘I go as an emissary of the entire Jewish people’… you are not my emissary,” the Jewish Chronicle reports.

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Arkush responded: “Netanyahu is going to the USA as the democratically elected prime minister of Israel … He is warning of Iran's nuclear determination which poses a mortal threat to Israel (and the West).

“I feel desperately sad to see you disrespecting that.”

Brass emailed back: “Netanyahu has absolutely no right to say that he speaks for the entire Jewish people. He certainly doesn't. He speaks for his own dishonored administration which hopefully will cease in 16 days’ time. In the meantime, he is wrecking Israel/US relations and my friends in the Democratic Party in the US tell me that they are exasperated at his behavior this week.”

Arkush replied: “I know you are ‘bursting’ to criticize the government of Israel but surely you can wait until you are no longer an officer of the Board?”