MK Smotrich during UK trip
MK Smotrich during UK tripצילום: דוברות

Israeli President Isaac Herzog condemned Britain’s largest Jewish organization over its boycott of a right-wing Israeli lawmaker, calling it “insulting”.

Speaking to supporters of the Jewish Agency Monday, President Herzog, who prior to his election as president served as chairman of the Jewish Agency, said that despite his political disagreements with Religious Zionist Party chief Bezalel Smotrich, he could not accept the decision by the Board of Deputies of British Jews to boycott Smotrich’s visit.

“Now I want to deal with another topic, which has to do with a Member of Knesset whose name is Bezalel Smotrich. He leads a very well-known right-wing party, which has support in the Israeli public. I have never supported the opinions of Bezalel Smotrich but I respect democracy.”

“You also know that I am a firm believer in open, sincere communication and dialogue. The three years we spent together at the Jewish Agency were an ongoing dialogue with all parts of the Jewish People. We met and spoke with every stream, community, synagogue and NGO, in Israel and in the Diaspora. This approach, of constant dialogue, stems in part from my own upbringing, which stems from the British Jewish community, which has always been open and willing to converse with other Jews and other Judaisms.”

“This is why I found the Board of Deputies’ recent English and Hebrew tweets concerning MK Smotrich a few weeks ago deeply inappropriate. The Hebrew version was downright insulting, and elicited great discomfort.”

"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 which have substantially different values and agendas. He has done so independently, as well as through Jewish Agency MK 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."

"I’m certain the message was retweeted and applauded. But now—what have we gained? The gap has grown. Have we not enough anger or 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?"

Earlier this month, Smotrich visited Jewish communities in Western Europe, including a trip to the UK, during which he met with two activists from the local Bnei Akiva organization.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews urged local Jewish groups to boycott the lawmaker’s visit, and demanded Smotrich leave the country immediately.

"We reject the abominable views and hatred-inducing ideology of Bezalel Smotrich and call on all members of the British Jewish community to show him the door," they began in Hebrew.