Netanyahu and His Trusted Deputy Against the Jews

Just like her boss, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has undermined the freedom of religion of millions of the world's Jews in the name of Israeli democracy

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus strong condemnation of Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovelys comments about American Jews, like his threat to fire her, is tainted by hypocrisy. Her remarks do not reflect the position of the State of Israel, he said. But Hotovelys remarks faithfully reflect the Netanyahu governments stance, and thats precisely why theyre such a problem.

This stance suffers from a split personality. With all its might, the government sponsors legislation that prioritizes the states Jewish character over its democratic one. But at the same time, it alienates Reform and Conservative Jews in the United States by passing legislation against the non-Orthodox movements and freezing the agreement on prayer arrangements at the Western Wall, on the pretext that these Jews are outside the democratic game.

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When Netanyahu and his government are uncomfortable with democracy, they justify it on the grounds that theyre Jews first and foremost. But when they arent comfortable with certain groups of Jews, they suddenly remember that theyre democrats first and foremost.

Most of the worlds Jews are liberal, and its completely legitimate for non-Orthodox Jews from outside Israel to demand that the Israeli government authorize establishment of an egalitarian prayer area at the Western Wall. Its hard to fathom that Israel is restricting the freedom of religion of millions of believing Jews just because they arent citizens of Israel (and therefore most havent served in the military). On this issue, Jews who are Israeli citizens have no priority over Jews who arent Israeli citizens.

Just like Netanyahu, who capitulated to pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties and froze the Western Wall agreement, Hotovely undermined the freedom of religion of millions of Jews in the name of democracy. In an interview with i24 News, Hotovely said Israel is the home of all Jews, from every Jewish movement, and everyone is welcome to come here to influence Israeli politics. But thats true only regarding Israels affairs, not freedom of worship for American Jews.

Because the dispute with American Jewry goes way beyond the Western Wall agreement, and because the rights policies have opened a vast ideological gulf between liberal American Jews and Israel, Hotovelys statements trod a path thats already well trodden by the right in general and Hotovely in particular – the path of smearing Israelis and Diaspora Jews who criticize the occupation or Israels retreat from liberal values.

Thus Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff is a traitor, and American Jews who fight the occupation merit digs that emit a whiff of anti-Semitism (most of the Jews dont have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having quite convenient lives.)

Hotovely loyally represents the Netanyahu government. Her dismissal would be pure hypocrisy unless the prime minister resigned along with her.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel