Progressively Speaking: Will the Priti Patel affair have lasting consequences for British-Israel relations?
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Progressively Speaking: Will the Priti Patel affair have lasting consequences for British-Israel relations?

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith gives a progressive Jewish view on a topical issue

Priti Patel
Priti Patel

Politics works differently in Israel.   There is none of the usual British formality we see here in the UK.

Earlier this year, on the last day of one of our annual Alyth Synagogue Israel trips, where we looked first-hand at the political, religious and social challenges faced by Jews and Arabs in Israel and the West Bank, we wanted to make the trip especially meaningful by meeting Members of the Knesset across the political spectrum.

This was remarkably straightforward to organise. MKs from Likud, Labour and Yesh Atid delightedly met with our group of British Reform Jews, in a Knesset committee room.

They were happy to have a conversation. It seems tht Priti Patel allowed herself to be part of that same Israeli willingness to just sit down and talk.   It proved to be unwise for her career as a British politician, but difficult for those who know Israeli politics to see it as a sinister plot.

Britain and Israel have good relations. The recent Institute for Jewish Policy Research survey on British attitudes to Israel showed that only six percent of Britons feel Israel has no right to exist and only 10 percent back the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, despite decades of propaganda against Israel.

Britain is a major trading partner and beneficiary of the strength of the Israeli economy and innovation.  We are culturally linked; it is easier for Britain to learn from Israel and vice-versa and to trade with Israel than any other country in the Middle East.

Going to Israel for tourism or business is simpler and cheaper than it is has ever been, with multiple flights linking us every day.

Perhaps Israeli politicians need a crash course in British political formality and the danger they can put a friend of Israel into, such as Ms Patel, by just sitting down to talk. However, the building of links and relationships with Israel should not be put on hold because of one person’s mistake.

Britain can be among Israel’s partners in the changes our Jewish state will need to make, so it can live in peace with its Palestinian neighbours and citizens. We need a strong relationship to make it so.

Mark Goldsmith is rabbi of Alyth Reform Synagogue

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