Twenty-three former employees of the Israeli Embassy in London penned an op-ed Friday in which they declared that they would not have been able to have performed their jobs in good conscience if they were still serving the diplomatic mission under the current Israeli government.
“Amid the crisis brought about by Israel’s extremist coalition, we do not believe that the Embassy is any longer a place where the interests of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel can effectively be represented,” the ex-staffers wrote in the UK Jewish Jews, a Times of Israel partner.
The op-ed was the latest expression of dissent to the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government that was sworn in on December 29, 2022. Like much of the criticism being voiced of late, the former embassy staffers focused on the coalition’s effort to overhaul the judiciary along with the comments and conduct of the government’s far-right ministers.
The authors are a combination of British, Israeli and dual nationals who served as speechwriters, press and public affairs officers, security officers, administrators and support staff at the Israeli mission in London
They stressed that they are proud to have served at the embassy but, “if we worked there today then if we hadn’t already walked out we would be strongly considering our positions.”
The ex-staffers explained that their old jobs involved “communicating difficult truths to the British public about the tough choices a democratic state must take to defend its citizens from terror, and communicating positive facts about Israel as a vibrant, thriving, liberal democracy in stark contrast to the slanders of Israel’s enemies.”
“Sadly, under this government, embassy staff are no longer part of an effort to tell difficult truths on behalf of a liberal democracy, but part of an effort to whitewash Israel’s first government with explicitly anti-democratic intentions,” the former embassy employees wrote.
“You cannot credibly warn of the dangers of extremism when Israel’s finance minister responds to murderous mob violence against the village of Huwara by calling for the ethnic cleansing of that village by the IDF,” they said, referring to Bezalel Smotrich, who called for the state to “wipe out” the Palestinian town of Huwara where two Israeli brothers were shot dead in a terror shooting last month and where hundreds of settlers carried out a deadly rampage hours later. Smotrich later condemned the rampage and apologized for calling to eradicate the town.
“You cannot credibly warn of the threat of terror which Israeli citizens tragically face daily while working for a government whose national security minister has multiple convictions for violence and incitement to terror,” they said, referring to Itamar Ben Gvir. The Otzma Yehudit chairman was found guilty of supporting a terror organization in 2007 for holding up a sign at a protest that read “Expel the Arab enemy” and “Kahane was right,” referring to the late-extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, whom Ben Gvir has described as his mentor.
“You cannot credibly strengthen the relationship between Israel and Britain on the basis of solidarity between democratic states while working for this government,” the ex-staffers continued.
“A government that seeks to move Israel out of the camp of liberal democracies. A government that by pushing through “judicial reforms” would remove all the civil rights protections enjoyed by Israel’s citizens, trampling the values of Israel’s Declaration of Independence,” they wrote of the judicial overhaul, which critics say will gut the power of the High Court of Justice, leaving no protection for minority populations under the ruling government.
“You cannot credibly strengthen the relationship between Israel and Britain on the basis of solidarity between democratic states while working for this government,” they said. “We could not in good conscience have done our jobs for a government that is betraying the Zionist vision of a Jewish and democratic state and imperiling its future.”
The writers called on current staffers to join the protest against the government that is being organized by Israeli ex-pats outside the embassy on Sunday. “In the face of an unprecedented crisis, we hope that you will not stand by, but do the same.”