Simon Schama and Sir Malcolm Rifkind among those warning that annexation ‘would have grave consequences’ for Palestinians
Fri 5 Jun 2020
Simon Schama, one of the prominent signatories of the letter condemning Israel’s West Bank plans. Photograph: various/BBC/Nutopia
Some of the most prominent and respected names in British Jewry have raised alarm over the Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank, saying such a move would be an existential threat to Israel.
Among more than 40 signatories of an unprecedented letter to the Israeli ambassador to the UK are Sir Ben Helfgott, one of the best-known Holocaust survivors in Britain; the historians Sir Simon Schama and Simon Sebag Montefiore; the former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; the lawyer Anthony Julius; the philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield; the scientist Lord Robert Winston; the former MP Luciana Berger; the Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein; and the author Howard Jacobson.
Their letter to Mark Regev, conveying “concern and alarm” about the pledge by Israel’s new coalition government to extend its territory over swaths of the West Bank, is the latest indication of mounting disquiet among British Jews over the plan.
The signatories say their concerns are “shared by large numbers of the British Jewish community, including many in its current leadership, even if they choose not to express them”.
The letter says: “We are yet to see an argument that convinces us, committed Zionists and passionately outspoken friends of Israel, that the proposed annexation is a constructive step. Instead, it would in our view be a pyrrhic victory intensifying Israel’s political, diplomatic and economic challenges without yielding any tangible benefit.
“It would have grave consequences for the Palestinian people most obviously. Israel’s international standing would also suffer and it is incompatible with the notion of Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state.”
The move would be seen as evidence of Israel’s rejection of a negotiated peace settlement involving the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state. This would inflame tensions locally and cause regional destabilisation, the letter says.
“The damage to Israel’s international reputation … will be enormous,” the letter says, pointing out that the UK government has said it will oppose the annexation plan, and that the proposed move would bolster calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.
Categories: The Muslim Times