Netanyahu refuses to say if he’d meet with Jeremy Corbyn
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Netanyahu refuses to say if he’d meet with Jeremy Corbyn

4 days after embattled UK Labour chief said he plans to visit Israel at some stage and would be happy to meet PM, Jerusalem officials pass the buck when asked if feeling is mutual

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn,  March 9, 2018. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, March 9, 2018. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

Four days after Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour Party, said he would readily meet with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader’s aides are unwilling to say whether he’d agree to such a meeting.

Last Wednesday, Corbyn told the UK’s Jewish News in an interview that he intends to visit Israel and meet Netanyahu “at some point,” though he added that he currently had no such plans.

Asked if he’d be happy to meet Netanyahu, the embattled Labour leader replied: “Well, I will be visiting the State of Israel so yes, of course.”

Asked Thursday by The Times of Israel whether Netanyahu would be equally happy to host Corbyn — a longtime critic of Israeli policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians who is also currently embroiled in a massive scandal for failing to tackle anti-Semitism in his party — the Prime Minister’s Office did not respond for several days.

Netanyahu’s spokesperson for the English media, David Keyes, finally said on Sunday that “questions about diplomatic meeting with foreign political leaders should be asked of the Foreign Ministry, as that is [their] prime objective.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry then promptly referred The Times of Israel back to the prime minister, saying only his aides could speak for his willingness to meet with world leaders.

Due to his pro-Palestinian views and the Labour Party’s anti-Semitism problem, Corbyn is viewed very critically by many British Jews and Israel supporters. His interview last week with the Jewish News of London was the first time he spoke to a Jewish news outlet since becoming Labour leader in September 2015.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to the media after arriving at 10 Downing Street in London for a meeting British counterpart Theresa May on February 6, 2017. (AFP PHOTO/Chris J Ratcliffe)

Last November, Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, was asked during an interview with the BBC how he would react if Corbyn were to be elected prime minister.

“Well, first of all the British people decide who they want to govern them, but I hope that there will be a continuity of British policy with Israel because here’s something people don’t know — that cooperation has saved many lives,” Netanyahu replied.

“Intense security and intelligence cooperation has saved many Israeli and British lives, he went on. “And it’s something I hope will continue in the future.”

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