Ronald Lauder Warns Israel: Nation-state Law Will Harm Ties With World Jewry

World Jewish Congress chief and former Netanyahu confidant urges Israeli leaders to 'rethink their destructive actions' in New York Times op-ed

World Jewish Congress head Ronald Lauder in 2012.
Daniel Bar-On

WASHINGTON – Ronald Lauder, a prominent Jewish American philanthropist and supporter of Israel, is warning the Israeli government in a new article that the recently approved nation-state law will damage Israel's future relationship with the Jewish diaspora. Lauder wrote in The New York Times the law will weaken Israel, and urged the leaders of the country to "rethink their destructive actions." 

Lauder was considered for decades to be a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who at some point even used him to conduct a secret negotiation with the president of Syria. He is the head of the World Jewish Congress, an international federation of Jewish groups from dozens of countries, and a prominent donor to various charities in Israel, as well as pro-Israeli groups in America. 

In his article on Monday, Lauder decried a number of recent decisions by the authorities in Israel, including the nation-state law, the passage of a surrogacy law that discriminates against the Israeli LGBT community, and the police interrogation of a non-Orthodox Rabbi in Haifa over his religious activities. "These events are creating the impression that the democratic and egalitarian dimensions of the Jewish democratic state are being tested," he wrote. 

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Lauder explained that "Israel may find itself associated with a broken values system and questionable friends. As a result, future leaders of the West may become hostile or indifferent to the Jewish state," adding it is becoming increasingly difficult for Jewish supporters of Israel in the U.S. and elsewhere to defend some of its actions, and that this could lead to a divide between the Jewish state and its Jewish supporters abroad.

Younger Jews worldwide are adopting more liberal positions on various issues, Lauder noted, of which many do not align with the Israeli policies he criticizes in the article.

"If present trends persist, young Jews might not acquiesce to an affiliation with a nation that discriminates against non-Orthodox Jews, non-Jewish minorities and the L.G.B.T. community," Lauder warned. "They may not fight the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, they may not support Israel in Washington and they may not provide it with the strategic rear guard that Israel so needs."

Lauder stressed he "Always stood by Israel and I always will. But now, as a loving brother, I ask Israel’s government to listen to the voices of protest and outrage being heard in Israel and throughout the Jewish world. As president of the World Jewish Congress, I call upon Israeli leaders to rethink their destructive actions during this summer of disharmony."

Lauder concluded by saying "This is not who we are, and this is not who we wish to be. This is not the face we want to show our children, grandchildren and the family of nations."

This is the second time in recent months that Lauder has criticized the policies of the right-wing government in Israel in the New York Times. Earlier this year, he wrote a scathing article against Israel's settlements in the West Bank, warning that they threaten Israel's Jewish and Democratic nature and its ties with the Jewish American community. 

Lauder's relationship with Netanyahu has reportedly soured in recent years, but he still enjoys a friendly relationship with another influential leader on the world stage - U.S. President Donald Trump. The two billionaires have known each other for decades, and Lauder has reportedly advised Trump and the senior members of his Middle East peace team on how, in his view, they can make progress towards an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.