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British Jews petition against Israel's 'racist' new UK ambassador

Tzipi Hotovely is known for her advocacy for unilateral annexation of the West Bank [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 June, 2020

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Israel has appointed a right-wing minister who supports unilateral annexation of the West Bank as its ambassador to the UK.
Israel has this week appointed a hardline right-wing minister who supports Israel's annexation plans as its ambassador to the UK, according to media reports, a decision criticised by British Jews.

After a brief tenure as Israel's Minister of Settlement Affairs, Tzipi Hotovely was named by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel's new ambassador to the UK.

Her predecessor Mark Regev stepped down from the position this week.

Hotovely is known for her fervent opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state, as well as her advocacy for unilateral annexation of the occupied West Bank, according to news reports.

During her tenure as deputy foreign minister, Hotovely called the occupation of Palestinian territories a "myth" and rejected the use of the term "annexation" at a conference in New York last year.

"Using the term 'annexation' is a false terminology," she said. "You annex part of a country that is not yours."

"This is not a story of annexation," she added "This is a story of realisation of our rights in our homeland."

During a 2017 Knesset session, Hotovely lashed out at Arab lawmakers following a UNESCO decision to declare Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs as endangered Palestinian heritage sites.

"You are thieves of history," she said. "You are appropriating Jewish heritage sites."

Hotovely said Palestinian history books are "empty" because they have "no kings" and "no heritage sites", adding that Palestinians will not succeed in "Islamicising" the sites in question.

Also in 2017, Hotovely called Breaking the Silence - an organisation for anti-occupation Israeli veteran soldiers - "war criminals" and enemies of Israel, according to Haaretz.

Hotovely, who practices Orthodox Judaism, has also elicited controversy by criticising Reform and Conservative strands of Judaism, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Though she has criticised American Jews for not enlisting their children to "fight for their country" in 2017, Hotovely briefly served as minister of diaspora affairs this year. 

A petition by British Jews demanding the UK government reject her nomination has so far garnered over 1,200 signatures. 

"Hotovely has demonstrated a complete disregard for international law throughout her political career, and has an appalling record of racist and inflammatory behaviour," the petition reads.

The petition is backed by Na'amod, a left-wing British Jewish organisation that advocates for Palestinian rights.

Hotovely's nomination has also sparked skepticism from senior British Jewish figures.

According to the Jewish Chroniclephilanthropist Sir Mick Davis stressed that Israeli ambassadors do not only represent Israel to the Queen of England and her government, but "to the Jewish community as well".

“I hope the incoming ambassador will recognise that the role requires equal respect and consideration for every part of our community, including the non-Orthodox and the secular, who contribute hugely to the rich tapestry of Jewish life and to keeping the flame of Zionism alive," said Davis.

Lord Jeremy Beecham, a Labour politician and member of Labour Friends of Israel, was more critical of Hotovely's new role.

“The appointment of an ultra-right wing ambassador, while typical of the present government of Israel, will do nothing to win friends in the UK - or indeed any other reasonable country," Beecham told the Jewish Chronicle.

Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi of Reform Judaism, told the Jewish Chronicle she hopes Hotovely can put her views "firmly to one side as an ambassador".

“Her political views on Palestinians, annexation and religious pluralism clash with our core values - and, just like any ambassador, I expect her to set aside those views," she said.

Earlier this month, a group of 40 leading British Jews - among them Davis, Beecham and Janner-Klausner - expressed "concern and alarm" over Israel's annexation plans in a letter that was delivered to former ambassador Regev. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also opposed annexation, instead expressing support for a two-state solution.

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