Lord Polak ‘concerned’ by foreign secretary’s Ben-Gvir snub

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Lord Polak ‘concerned’ by foreign secretary’s Ben-Gvir snub

Speaking during House of Lords debate the CFI president says James Cleverly is 'effectively boycotting an Israeli Minister'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Lord Polak speaking in the House of Lords
Lord Polak speaking in the House of Lords

Conservative peer Lord Polak has said he is “concerned” about foreign secretary James Cleverly’s admission that he had no plan to work with far-right Israeli minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Speaking during a House of Lords debate on efforts to calm tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, Polak made reference a letter written by Cleverly in response to questions put to him by theCouncil for Arab-British Understanding.

Conservative Friends of Israel president Polak said:”I am
concerned about comments in a recent letter from the foreign secretary effectively boycotting an Israeli Minister.

“It is not about whether one agrees with Minister Ben-Gvir.

“We work with all elected Israeli politicians, and we must be very careful not to go down a route of suggesting that our support for Israel is somehow conditional on any individual politician.

“Could we be holding Israel to a different standard from other countries?

“It seems that we are fine working with Prime Minister Meloni’s extreme right-wing Italian Government and with some kleptocracies and dictatorships, but working with elected officials who could be tried and found guilty in democratic Israel is somehow not fine.”

Israeli far-right lawmaker and the head of “Jewish Power” party Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Last month Cleverly letter had stated:“The UK government has not engaged Itamar Ben-Gvir in his role as Minister of National Security, and we have no current plans to do so.”

The foreign secretary’s snub to Israel’s national security minister and Jewish supremacist Ben Gvir was written on February 14th.

Polak also insisted that despite the current dire situation in the Middle East, there is a “peace train that has left the station and is making its way across the region.”

He added:” The Abraham Accords train has visited Manama in Bahrain. It has travelled through Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE and meandered through the hills of Jerusalem in Israel. It has reached Rabat in Morocco, and the journey has continued to Khartoum in Sudan. It is possible that the train is making its way to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.”

James Cleverly answers questions from Jeremy Corbyn on Israel

Lord Harries had secured Tuesday’s Lord debate asking what steps the UK government are taking, with international partners, to calm the violence and build a lasting peace between the government of Israel and the Palestinian people.

He said:”The reason I asked for this debate is not just the recent level of violence, severe though it has been, but because there will continue to be violence unless there is hope.

“At the moment, there is no hope. Where is the hope in the situation? What sign of hope can be given to young Palestinians, or to those Israelis who have lost their family or friends and who have sincerely wanted and worked for a solution?”

Lord Leigh added:”I know Jerusalem best, because I am chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation in the UK. I will be there next week, running a 10k around the city, with citizens from every background—Jewish, Muslim, Christian and no faith—all running together.

“It is a most uplifting experience. We are working hard to make Jerusalem a better place. I am not convinced that the UK Government, or any Government, can do as much as we would like in the cause of peace. It is the people, the individuals, who can do so much.”

Lord Turnberg noted “we seem to have ignored one resource, which should be called upon now: the Arab citizens of Israel, who make up over 20% of the population. We have heard a little about them.”

He added:” They overwhelmingly want to see a two-state solution, according to all of the polls, but they live uncomfortably between the two sides. They could form an invaluable link as go-betweens between the warring parties.”




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