Israel’s “change government,” which took over less than half a year ago and ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s hold on power, is firmly committed to fixing the country’s ties with American Jewry, said Transportation Minister and Labor Party Chairwoman Merav Michaeli. She spoke at Haaretz's conference on Israeli national security, organized together with UCLA's Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies.
Michaeli, who is also a member of Israel’s security cabinet, said that “there is good communication between this government and the Biden White House on everything, and that is exactly how it should be. We work closely and discreetly with the administration, as opposed to what previous governments and prime ministers had done. We are not going to go to the media and to Congress with speeches – we work closely with the United States at all levels.”
In her view, Israel “should go back to investing in bipartisanship, which was a major asset that we had for many years and was shaken recently.” Netanyahu, in her view, too often took sides in American politics, “and I was criticizing him for it,” she said. “Today, for this government, bipartisanship is something we must restore. We have an American president who is a very strong supporter of Israel. Keeping a good relationship is a matter of political will, and this government has it.”
On the issue of ties with American Jews, Michaeli said that during coalition negotiations, her party insisted on holding the Diaspora Affairs ministry, because “we want to enhance our connections with Jewish communities abroad and feel a strong relation to them.” She noted that her party also demanded in the coalition agreement it signed before entering the government to see the 2016 Western Wall compromise reauthorized and implemented.
The compromise, which is supposed to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, was accepted by a Netanyahu-led government in 2016, but Netanyahu later decided to freeze it indefinitely due to pressure from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox politicians.
“The Western Wall compromise truly is a compromise, it’s not what I want to see completely, but it’s a compromise we must push forward. We are working on a resolution that we hope to pass in the government,” Michaeli said. She noted that other party leaders in the coalition, such as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (chairman of Yesh Atid) and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman (chairman of Yisrael Beitenu) have also made public commitments to promote the compromise. “It’s long overdue and it’s up to us to make it happen now,” she concluded.
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Michaeli also said that the current government, which is an eclectic combination of left-wing, right-wing and centrist parties, “speaks in a different language, without hatred, without incitement, without violence.” She noted the importance of including an Arab party in the coalition: “This is something that you really cannot exaggerate its importance. It shows internally and also to the world that this government really does things differently.”
The conference on Israeli national security is a joint project of Haaretz English Edition and the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. The full conference can be viewed online here.