A spokeswoman for Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely denied reports Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grounded Hotovely as punishment for the latter’s criticism of American Jews last week.
The spokeswoman said that a conference between Czech and Israeli authorities on security and European-Middle East relations would be held as scheduled in Prague tomorrow, but the strategic dialogue portion of the program had been “pushed off at the request of the Prime Minister’s Office,” and would be rescheduled to take place during 2018, effectively canceling Hotevely’s participating in the meeting.
Netanyahu was deeply critical of Hotovely for telling i24 News that American Jewry “is not understanding the complexity of the region,” adding that Israel is not understood properly by American Jews because they “never send their children to fight for their country, most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq.”
“Most of them are having quite convenient lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis,” Hotovely said.
Hotovely’s comments sparked an uproar from leaders of the Reform movement in the U.S., and drew condemnation from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu called the remarks “offensive” and was reported to have considered firing her.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who himself had been criticized for saying more than 30 years ago that Reform Judaism is “idol worship and not Judaism,” said of Hotovely’s remarks, “The [U.S. Jewish] community longs for a connection with Israel, but wants a relationship between equals, not of philanthropy on the one hand and blind admiration on the other. We must embark on a new path, no longer a relationship of charity, but a shared commitment to justice, to Jewish and human mutual responsibility. No longer with the silencing of mutual criticism, but with courageous and sincere openness.”
Mitchell Barak, an Israel-based political consultant and director of the Keevoon Research survey and strategic communications firm, told JNS.org that Netanyahu “has condemned the statements of Hotovely, but his actions, specifically on delaying the Kotel (Western Wall plaza) equal access, the conversion issue, the silencing of any questioning or dissent of Israeli policies in the territories or vis-a-vis the Palestinians, and his partisan embrace of Trump, which was preceded by his demonizing of President Obama, has split the community because Israel has become a partisan issue.”
As a result, Israel “is losing American Jews’ bedrock of support,” Barak said.
“The Jews of the Diaspora are dear to us and are an inseparable part of our people. There is no place for such attacks, and her remarks do not reflect the position of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Subsequently, in conversation with Arutz Sheva, Hotovely said she wished to clarify the matter.
“I meant to say something simple. I wanted to say that living in a tiny country surrounded by hostile territory is not like the life of a huge country whose wars are far from the country’s borders. Does anyone really think there is a similarity between the life of an American Jew and the life of an Israeli in Israel? There is no similarity. But we are a family and a family has to understand each other.”
By JLBWC Staff and combined sources