‘Netanyahu Turned His Back on Millions of Jews. We Bring a New Approach’

MK Gilad Kariv, the first non-Orthodox rabbi to be elected to the Knesset, slams the former PM for the ‘damage’ he did to Reform, Conservative and unaffiliated egalitarian movements in Israel and overseas

MK Gilad Kariv in the Knesset in June.
MK Gilad Kariv in the Knesset in June.Credit: Knesset Spokesperson's Office

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition is working hard to repair the damage caused to Israel’s relations with Diaspora Jewry by ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu, MK Gilad Kariv said on Monday.

In an interview with Haaretz journalists Amir Tibon and Allison Kaplan Sommer on the Haaretz Weekly podcast, the former executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, and the first non-Orthodox rabbi to be elected to the Knesset, said that unlike the former prime minister, who alienated wide swaths of American Jewry, the new government has evinced “a new attitude toward the non-Orthodox streams.”

While the renewal of the Western Wall deal unilaterally canceled by the Netanyahu government in 2017 is “critical” to the new coalition, the new lawmaker said, no less important is “our ability to build the infrastructures of the non-Orthodox movements, to support the Israeli Reform and Conservative and unaffiliated egalitarian congregations, [and] expose the values and the work of our movements in Israel.”

Kariv highlighted that the new government has prevented ultra-Orthodox parties from legislatively rolling back progress that non-Orthodox movements have made in the courts regarding the recognition of conversions. Another achievement was the establishment of a department in the Diaspora Affairs Ministry that will “offer governmental support to the important cause of promoting pluralistic Judaism in Israel,” he said.

Regarding the Kotel agreement, which was meant to upgrade the egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall but was frozen due to pressure from the Haredi parties, Kariv said it was “clear that we have a strong majority inside the government and coalition to renew” it, and it would likely be addressed following the passage of the state budget when the Knesset reconvenes after this month’s Jewish holidays.

“I’m using all my opportunities in the Knesset to attack former Prime Minister Netanyahu for the damage he created inside the Jewish world around this issue,” Kariv said. “Netanyahu turned his back on millions of progressive and liberal Jews around the world, and this is something that definitely will not happen in this government.”

He continued: “Netanyahu ended any dialogue with the leadership of the non-Orthodox movements in Israel and overseas. It wasn’t only about the Kotel,” he said.

Kariv also accused Netanyahu of eroding faith in democracy and running a dysfunctional administration that failed to achieve the basic functions of government. “We are regaining the trust of Israelis,” he said.

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