UK Chief Rabbi 'Settlements' Remark Misrepresented

Comments by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis over 'settlement building' were totally misrepresented, source tells Arutz Sheva. Why?

Ari Soffer ,

Binyamin Netanyahu meets UK Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Mirvis (R)
Binyamin Netanyahu meets UK Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Mirvis (R)
Avi Ohayon/GPO

A conversation between UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a closed meeting in London last week was grossly misrepresented by several media outlets, in an attempt to portray an argument over "settlement building" which never occurred, Arutz Sheva has learned.

Netanyahu spoke at length with leading figures within the British Jewish community on Wednesday evening during his visit to the UK, ahead of meeting senior British government officials, including his counterpart David Cameron.

An article published on Friday by the Times of Israel implied that an argument of sorts took place between Chief Rabbi Mirvis and Prime Minister Netanyahu, citing "leaked minutes" during which Rabbi Mirvis purportedly echoed the stance of left-wing Jewish groups by "voicing concern" over Israeli building in Judea and Samaria, with Netanyahu subsequently rebuffing him.

The article - headlined "Netanyahu rebuffs UK Chief Rabbi's concerns over settlements" - claimed that:

According to minutes of the closed one-hour meeting taken by an official in attendance, Mirvis told Netanyahu that friends of Israel approach him with the request to “help us help you,” by limiting settlement expansion.

Netanyahu replied that “settlements are not the issue,” and argued that the Arab-Israeli conflict existed well before the establishment of Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line.

The report was promptly picked up by other media outlets, including the left-of-center Jewish Chronicle, which published the alleged exchange under the headline: "Benjamin Netanyahu and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis ‘clashed over settlements’."

But Arutz Sheva has learned that the discussion was quoted entirely out of context, falsely giving the impression that the Chief Rabbi was himself expressing those views about "settlement expansion" to the PM, and equally falsely framing it as a disagreement between the two men.

In fact, the exchange took place during a friendly conversation between the Israeli PM and communal leaders, during which time Netanyahu was briefed on the kinds of views he could expect to hear during his trip. In the course of that conversation, Rabbi Mirvis mentioned in passing, among other things, that one opinion he sometimes encountered was that Israel should stop building "settlements" in order to appease some of Israel's critics.

But the Chief Rabbi was not in any way endorsing those views, and Netanyahu's response was not part of a "clash" between the two, but rather his off-the-cuff response to the claim itself. 

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, a source close to the Chief Rabbi's Office expressed puzzlement as to why the exchange was framed the way it was. 

"This was a private but very positive and constructive conversation which touched on a whole host of issues - to try and portray this element of the discussion as some kind of disagreement between the Chief Rabbi and the Prime Minister is well wide of the mark," the source said.