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British rabbis warn top diplomat about Israel’s ‘survival’ under Netanyahu

An aerial view shows people holding a banner in Hebrew reading “Supreme Court” as they take part in a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right cabinet in al-Quds, the occupied territories, on September 11, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Dozens of leading British rabbis and other prominent Jewish figures have written to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to warn against the existential threat that the far-right Israeli administration of Benjamin Netanyahu poses to the “survival” of the regime.

They also called on the senior British diplomat not to label his forthcoming visit to the 1948 occupied territories later this week as “business as usual.”

The letter comes ahead of Cleverly’s proposed meetings with 73-year-old Netanyahu, who is also the chairman of Likud right-wing political party.

Reflecting the growing discontent within the UK Jewish community over the policies of Israel’s right-wing administration, including the controversial judicial overhaul, the rabbis called on Cleverley to stress that London’s relationship with Israel is contingent on its adherence to international principles.

Signatories to the letter include prominent rabbis Jonathan Wittenberg, Charley Baglinsky and Josh Levy from non-Orthodox Jewish denominations, as well as leaders of progressive Jewish organizations like the New Israel Fund and Habonim Dror.

Critics have accused Netanyahu of using the so-called judicial overhaul scheme to remain in power. They argue that he, who is on trial on several counts of corruption charges, is also attempting to use the scheme to quash possible judgments against him.

Protests have gained momentum since the end of July, when the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed the first bill of the plan, which restricted the Supreme Court’s ability to declare the cabinet’s decisions “unreasonable.”

Earlier, several protests were launched in the military to denounce the far-right cabinet’s policies. More than 10,000 reservist soldiers, including members of the elite intelligence unit 8200 and air force pilots, have said they would no longer show up for duty on a voluntary basis in protest.

Former politicians and members of the security establishment have also declared support for the boycott.

Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said at a demonstration in Tel Aviv in July that the time had come “to decide on the suspension of volunteering for the reserves until the legislation is completely stopped.”

Former minister for military affairs and Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon has also said that he “would have done the same” when commenting on reservists who stop their service.

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