Netanyahu to Meet With Senior AIPAC Officials on Thursday Amid Western Wall Crisis

Senior Israeli official says visit by AIPAC president and CEO was not planned in advance; AIPAC spokesperson tells Haaretz that Israel's democratic debate is 'the best hope for a productive outcome'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, Monday, March 2, 2015.
Amos Ben Gershom GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with the heads of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Thursday morning. The delegation, headed by AIPAC President Lillian Pinkus and CEO Howard Kohr, arrived in Israel for an emergency visit on Wednesday following the crisis that the government decision to freeze the Western Wall agreement and to legislate a conversion bill.

A senior Israeli official said that the visit was not planned in advance and was scheduled on haste due to the crisis between the Israeli government and the Jewish community in the United States. Since Sunday, several leaders in the American Jewish community have said they were going to reconsider their relationship with Israeli government and will even consider stopping donations to Israel.

On Monday, the Jewish Agency's Chairman of the Board of Governors Michael Siegal told Haaretz the organization will reconsider its relationship with the Israeli government. “We represent the Jewish people, not the government of Israel,” Siegal said. "The government of Israel has taken certain actions that threaten the Jewish people, and we want our communities back home to understand that support for Israel does not necessarily mean support for the government of Israel.”

Israel's new ambassador to Israel David Friedman commented on the crisis on Tuesday, at a B'nai Brith event in Jerusalem. Friedman said that as a member of the U.S. Jewish community, he was stunned to hear that one of the Jewish organizations announced that due to the crisis it would reconsider its support for Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and David Friedman , the new United States Ambassador to Israel attend an event marking the 50th anniversary of Israel's capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War, opposite the Old City wall and near the Tower of David in Jerusalem May 21, 2017.
POOL/REUTERS

Friedman said he understood the anger and the frustration, and the idea that a major Jewish organization would reassess its support of Israel would have been unthinkable in his lifetime, until this week.

Friedman said there many things over which there was disagreement but that they could be resolved by mutual respect. Friedman called for unity and said the goal was not to win but to reach understandings.

An AIPAC spokesman told Haaretz that the organization "has no comment" regarding the meeting. AIPAC has decided not to address the crisis in public, and released a one-sentence long statement expressing its confidence in Israel's democratic debate as "the best hope for a productive outcome."