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A delegation of 20 senior British Jewish leaders affiliated with the World Jewish Congress is due to arrive in Israel on Thursday amid a burgeoning feud in the organization over control of the Jerusalem office.
The eight-day solidarity trip, which will include visits to the hard-hit Negev town of Sderot and the northern border, is the highest ranking visit of British Jewish leaders since this summer's war in Lebanon.
The senior members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who are affiliated with the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress, are scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Moshe Katsav, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai during their stay.
The event, which is being organized by the Jerusalem office of the World Jewish Congress, comes amid a bitter tempest raging between the Jerusalem and New York offices of the World Jewish Congress over control of the Israel office.
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said Wednesday that the visit bore "no connection" to the dispute, noting that the trip had been planned for several months.
"As the 350th anniversary year of the British Jewish community draws to a close, our visit is a symbol of our strong and unshakable relations with our brethren in Israel and our continuing support for them," said Henry Grunwald QC, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Bobby Brown, the executive director of the World Jewish Congress in Israel, said the visit will demonstrate to Israelis the unwavering support of Anglo Jews for the State of Israel.
The months-old dispute over the control of the organization's Israel office is expected to peak next week when Israel's ambassador to the European Union, Oded Eran, is slated to start work at the Jerusalem office.
The appointment is seen by members of the Israeli board as an attempt by the organization's New York-based secretary general, Stephen E. Herbits, to bypass the Jerusalem office from New York with a hand-picked appointment who will serve as his personal emissary.
The group's New York office has called Eran "uniquely qualified" for the posting.