“Instead of us, and not next to us”

“Instead of us, and not next to us”

Hilik Bar for the JC May 2018 from Jenni Frazer

The Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, MK Hilik Bar, has accused British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of friendship “with those elements in the Middle East who want to live here instead of us [Israel], and not next to us”.

Mr Bar, whose idea it was for the Israeli Labour leader Avi Gabbay to write to Corbyn last month to freeze relations, told the JC: “ We are for a two-state solution, as Mr Corbyn says he is. But his friends are not for a two-state solution. They are for the elimination of Israel, and he needs to speak more loudly and more clearly about the right of Israel to exist. So far he is not doing this. We can choose our friends and our allies, and he is not one of the second. I wish it were not the case”.

Defending the timing of the letter to Corbyn, Mr Bar said Israel had written to him several times previously but had received no reply, and that Israeli Labour had shown their “lack of enthusiasm” for him to various visiting MPs who had come to Israel. “We didn’t go to the last two Labour conferences in the UK in protest at the various actions that we saw. This didn’t come out of nowhere. When we saw the protest by the Jewish community, we felt we owed it to our Jewish brothers and sisters in the UK to say, enough is enough”.

Speaking in Jerusalem in the wake of the latest diplomatic row over Mahmoud Abbas’s most recent speech, Mr Bar, who chairs the Two-State Solution committee in the Knesset, warned that while Abbas was “by no means the perfect partner”, nevertheless “the next generation after him will not be better”, and were likely to be more extreme and more nationalistic.

He believed that neither Israel nor the Palestinians had “a leadership willing to cross the Rubicon and walk that extra mile for peace” and said that he had urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to take “brave steps”, but suggested that the government had “a very defeatist attitude” towards the two-state solution.

Mr Bar said he feared that post-Abbas, his Palestinian successors would “face us with a dilemma that I don’t want Israel to face. What if one day they come to us and say, take the keys of the Palestinian Authority, we don’t want a state, we want to be Israeli. And then we are faced with a choice — to give them citizenship, in which case, demographically, we are screwed — or not to give them citizenship, in which case we will be blamed for apartheid. Anyone who accuses Israel of apartheid today is either a liar or doesn’t know what apartheid is. But if one day the Palestinian Authority does not exist, and we don’t give them citizenship… then we will have to see if it is true or not.”

Both solutions were equally bad, he said, and urged courage on both sides.

Mr Bar said he was optimistic that the centre Left in Israel could still win power at the next elections. Among his party’s first acts, he said, would be to craft a proper response to the Arab Peace Plan, which he felt was becoming more and more viable with renewed changes. “Israel didn’t even reply for 15 years”, he said, “so I think it is only right that we respond”.

  • 10 May, 2018