Senior Israeli Security Official Blasted for Calling Settlements Fulfillment of 'Divine Promise'

Left-wing Front for the Protection of Democracy complains to Civil Service Commission over remarks made by National Security Council Deputy Director Reuven Azar at a Christian media conference

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Reuven Azar at the Christian Media Summit.
Reuven Azar at the Christian Media Summit, November 4, 2019Credit: Screengrab/GPO video

A left-wing group filed a complaint Thursday with the Israeli government regarding comments that the deputy director of the National Security Council made this week to a Christian media event in which he said that Israel's West Bank settlements are a blessing and the fulfillment of divine promise.

In the event, Reuven Azar called his audience to oppose those claiming that the settlements are illegal. "The return of the Jews to Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is not a curse but a blessing to all of the residents of the region," he said, adding that the "unjustified call to evacuate [Jewish settlers] is a call for destruction and chaos."

The Front for the Protection of Democracy asked the Civil Service Commission to take disciplinary action against Azar, who is also a foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for what the organization said is a "serious violation of the rules of ethics for a senior civil servant."

In its letter, the organization said Azar's comments are political remarks on a matter in dispute and are not in keeping with the obligations of a civil servant.

The prime minister's office released a statement on Azar's comments on Thursday. "Political adviser Reuven Azar expressed government policy. We are sorry that there are those who try to hurt the good name of a professional and experienced adviser because of a headline distorted by media outlets," read the statement. 

The Civil Service Commission confirmed that it had received the letter of complaint. In addition, Meretz party Knesset member Tamar Zandberg wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to complain about the comments. She wrote that "Azar's comments contain political doctrine based on theological arguments calling for maintaining a security presence in the West Bank for the sake of 'fulfilling the divine promise.'"

"Azar did not make do with fundamentalist preaching," Zandberg claimed, and "described the Palestinians as 'the bad people who want to take control,' as 'corrupt' and 'dysfunctional' and as 'incapable of coping.'"

"There is no place at an entity that has direct responsibility for what happens in the national security field for religious and political considerations that have no connection to national security." She called on the prime minister "to look into how considerations that are not professional are interfering in the work of the National Security Council."