U.S. Envoy on Kotel Crisis: Unbelievable That Jewish Group Says Will Examine Ties With Israel

David Friedman says he was amazed by the reaction of the one of the major Jewish organizations to the crisis, a day after the chairman of the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors announces evaluation of relations

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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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman in Jerusalem in May 2017.Credit: POOL/REUTERS
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said on Tuesday that he heard that a major Jewish organization was going to reconsider its support for Israel following the government’s controversial decision to suspend implementation of a planned egalitarian prayer area at the Western Wall.

Speaking at a B'nai B'rith event in Jerusalem, Friedman, who stressed that he was speaking not as U.S. ambassador but as a member of the American Jewish community, said he had planned to make a speech about Israeli-American relations but had changed the speech after he heard from Jewish organizations regarding the crisis over the Western Wall.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman addresses the crowd at B'nai B'rithCredit: LES GLASSMAN / YouTube

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.

He was apparently referring to statements made on by the newly installed chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Michael Siegal in a Monday interview with Haaretz, in which Siegel said the Jewish Agency would reevaluate its relationship with the Israeli government.

“We represent the Jewish people, not the government of Israel,” said Siegal, who assumed his new position just one day earlier. “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,” Siegal said.

On Tuesday, the American Jewish congressman from Florida, Ted Deutch, who is considered one of Israel's prominent supporters in the Democratic Party, told Haaretz that his office has been overwhelmed with angry phone calls from his Jewish constituents demanding action following the Western Wall decision.

"These are people who love Israel and are committed to it, and they are very hurt and disappointed by the government's decision," Deutch said. "Truthfully, I have to say that I'm also disappointed, as a congressman but first of all as a Jewish American."

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