Israel's Herzog Rebukes British Jewish Leadership for ‘Insulting’ Far-right Leader

A tweet by the Board of Deputies of British Jews saying Bezalel Smotrich will be 'remembered as a disgrace forever' caused the Israeli lawmaker 'great discomfort,' President Issac Herzog says

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol
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Herzog at the 2022 Israel Climate Conference.
Herzog at the 2022 Israel Climate Conference.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol

President Isaac Herzog on Monday spoke out against the British Jewish community’s “downright insulting” recent rejection of Bezalel Smotrich, describing the way in which the country’s main representative group had rebuffed the far-right lawmaker as causing him “great discomfort.”

Addressing the board of governors of the Jewish Agency during one of its regular gatherings in Jerusalem, Herzog said that while he has “never supported Bezalel Smotrich’s opinions,” he respects democracy and is a “firm believer in open, sincere communication and dialogue.”

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Asserting that his embrace of openness comes from his own family’s roots in the British Jewish community, “which has always been open and willing to converse with other Jews and other Judaisms,” Herzog said that he found “the Board of Deputies’ recent English and Hebrew tweets concerning MK Smotrich a few weeks ago deeply inappropriate.

“The Hebrew version,” he added, “was downright insulting, and elicited great discomfort.”

After Smotrich, head of the extreme-right Religious Zionism party, kicked off a European tour to beat back opposition to the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over kashrut and conversion earlier this month, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the main representative body of British Jewry, decried his “hateful ideology” in a series of tweets in English and Hebrew.

The group stated in Hebrew that they “reject his abominable views and hateful ideology,” before telling the MK to “get back on the plane … and be remembered as a disgrace forever” in English.

In his comments, Herzog stated that “just as Jewish communities correctly expect their leadership to be respected in Israel, similarly I would expect Israeli leaders to be treated with respect in the Diaspora.

“For a few years now, Member of Knesset Smotrich has conducted a sincere dialogue with many Jewish communities that have substantially different values and agendas. He has done so independently, as well as through Jewish Agency delegations to Jewish communities abroad. His beliefs are strong, and his willingness to see and connect with someone he may see as ‘the other’ is something that he has done, and many of you have met him, including the leadership of the Board of Governors and the leadership of the Reform and Conservative movements,” Herzog said.

“I’m certain the message was retweeted and applauded. But now – what have we gained? The gap has grown. Have we not enough anger and disputes amongst us? Have we not all experienced or witnessed enough hatred and toxicity? Have we not had enough of the destruction of the temple due to hatred?”

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