Union for Reform Jews Congratulates Netanyahu but Warns of Religious, Antidemocratic Legislation

Meanwhile, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America congratulates Netanyahu on his reelection

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompanied by his wife Sara waves to his supporters after polls for Israel's general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, April 10, 2019.
Ariel Schalit / AP

WASHINGTON — The Union for Reform Judaism, which represents the largest Jewish stream in North America, expressed fear Wednesday over the religious, right-wing government to be established by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who secured a fifth term in the Israeli election on Tuesday.

“The Israeli elections show that the country is divided on issues of critical importance to the future of the country,” the group said in a statement. “We congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu even as we continue to speak out for the enduring Jewish values of justice and equality.”

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The organization also said: “We have deep concern that the new government will deepen the discrimination against the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, continue to undermine the democratic values and institutions of Israel, and discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel

“We join our Israeli partners in the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism in demanding that the government represent all of Israel’s citizens.”

The organization also noted that “we are especially concerned by the statements made by Prime Minister Netanyahu on the eve of the election calling for annexation of West Bank Jewish settlements — a unilateral move that would make a two-state solution impossible and render the Jewish democratic state untenable.”

Kahol Lavan co-chairman Benny Gantz conceded defeat to Netanyahu in a speech on Wednesday night, saying, “We all accept the nation’s decision, we all respect and accept the president's decision and whatever comes of it,” referring to President Reuven Rivlin’s role in choosing the leader who forms the government. 

Speaking before Gantz, Yair Lapid, number two on the Kahol Lavan slate, said his party will make Likud's life miserable from the opposition. “Part of having the DNA of the governing party is never giving up, the Knesset will be a battlefield,” Lapid said.

Meanwhile, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America congratulated the prime minister in an official statement issued Wednesday. President Moishe Bane wrote, “Mr. Netanyahu has been a steady, effective leader for the people of Israel and a responsible steward in protecting the country during the ongoing threats and challenges the nation has faced over the decades.”

The Orthodox Union's executive vice president Allen Fagin added, “The United States’ relationship with Israel has never been stronger. We are confident the prime minister will continue to strengthen and cultivate this close relationship, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and his administration.”