A week after Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be addressing the annual gathering of the Jewish Federations of North America, the Israeli leader has reconsidered.
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His original plan to stay away was seen as further evidence of the growing rift between the Israeli government and Diaspora Jewry.
Officials at the Prime Minister’s Office said on Monday that Netanyahu would be interviewed by live satellite during the event, scheduled to be held in two weeks in Los Angeles.
The prime minister’s earlier decision to absent himself from the event had been attributed by JFNA officials to his unwillingness to share the limelight with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who will be addressing the JFNA in person for the first time this year. Rivlin’s agreement to attend was welcomed warmly by the JFNA leadership.
Relations between Netanyahu and world Jewish leaders have been extremely tense since June, when the Israeli government decided to suspend its plan to build an egalitarian space at the Western Wall where the Reform and Conservative movements would receive full recognition. Reform and Conservative Jewish leaders considered the decision an act of betrayal and have not met with Netanyahu since.
Had Netanyahu followed through with his original plan to stay away, it would have been only the second time since he was elected in 2009 that he did not address this prestigious forum. Reform and Conservative leaders have speculated that Netanyahu’s original decision to absent himself might have been prompted by fears he would be heckled by the audience because of his decision on the Western Wall.