Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday announced that he “condemns Tzipi Hotovely’s offensive remarks regarding the American Jewish community. The Jews of the Diaspora are dear to us and are an inseparable part of our people. There is no place for such attacks, and her remarks do not reflect the position of the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely (Likud) on Wednesday told i24News that most US Jews do not have children who are soldiers and that many of them are living “quite convenient lives,” as part of a larger explanation as to why she believes US Jews don’t understand the realities Israel faces in the region.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely:
“The other issue is not understanding the complexity of the region. Most of the [American] Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having quite convenient lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis.”
Adam Levick and Yisrael Medad responding on Twitter pointed out that Hotovely was clearly referring to Diaspora and Israeli Jewry having different worldviews and outlooks based on different life circumstances, and media spin is distorting the context of her argument.
.@TzipiHotovely‘s central argument, however it’s being distorted in the media, was this: US Jews will never know how it feels to be attacked by rockets and face life surrounded by Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, and that this in part explains the Israeli-diaspora divide.
— Adam Levick (@adamlevick) November 23, 2017
And that a people as a collective (Diaspora Jewry) whose children do not go off to serve lack a mental, social and psychological element that adds to their survival judgment capability. Which Israelis do have.
.@adamlevick @richard_landes @TzipiHotovely https://t.co/oU4zhgN2rj
— ymedad (@ymedad) November 23, 2017
Commenting on the struggle between Reform dignitaries and the Netanyahu government over a mixed-sex prayer section by the Western Wall, the Deputy FM noted that the existing “egalitarian” platform stands empty most of the time, “and the reason it’s empty, if you’re asking me, it’s not because they don’t like the arrangement, it’s empty because most of the time those people are not even interested in going to the Kotel.”
“The Israeli government was doing a lot in order to make sure that they can have egalitarian prayer, that women can go together with their family, that men can go together with their daughters. Everything is set up but they are not willing to get that because if you’re asking me this is a political matter,” she continued. “They want to get recognized through the Kotel issue and they are making a religious, holy place something for political dispute and I really think the solution that was offered was quite good.”
“I think it’s a very important goal to bring American Jews closer to Israel, I think this is one of my goals, but we need to be open about this,” Hotovely stated.
Insisting that one of her goals is to “bring American Jews closer to Israel,” where “everyone is welcome to come here to influence Israeli politics,” Hotovely then managed to insult a very large group of brethren and sisters, suggesting US Jews do not understand “the complexity of the region,” because “most of the [American] Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having quite convenient lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis.”
“This is the reason for the distance between US Jews and Israel,” she continued. “American Jews contribute a great deal to Israel, but they cannot condition their connection to Israel on the government’s policies. We need to remember that the past few years have seen stormy discussions about Judaism and identity. These arguments are a healthy part of democracy.”
Hotovely’s office on Thursday issued a belated apology, stating, “Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely explains in response to the storm that the interview on i24news sparked about American Jewry because it spoke about the complexity of life in Israel under the constant threat of terrorism and the firing of missiles at the civilian population. The difficulty in understanding the reality in the Middle East of people who do not experience the daily reality of Israel is great. The gap stems from a different reality of life. This is the basis for the distance between American Jewry and Israel.”
“Despite the fact that only a small part of the full interview was distributed, it is important to say that most of the interview spoke about the importance that Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely sees in the connection between us and American Jewry and that Israel is the home of all the world’s Jews. It’s a shame that this part has been left out of the part published on the Internet.
“Deputy Minister Hotovely makes it clear that American Jewry has a very large contribution, but it is impossible to condition the connection to Israel on government policy. It is worth remembering that in recent years there has been a heated debate within the various streams of Judaism about identity, and it is healthy in a healthy democracy to conduct an argument,” the statement said.