(VIDEO IN EXTENDED ARTICLE)
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotevely was interviewed by i24 News, addressing a wide range of issues from the peace process with the Palestinians to the ongoing controversy surrounding the Kosel and the Reform Movement.
However, it is her comments regarding Jews living in the United States that has ignited a firestorm. Hotevely stated her belief that US Jews lead ‘convenient lives,’ and do not understand the reality in Israel because they do not send their children to fight for their country.
Addressing the so-called peace process with the PA (Palestinian Authority) she explained concerns of not creating a second Gaza. “We have to worry what will be on the other side, a peaceful border or another Hamas regime. The answer is quite clear, another Hamas regime”.
Regarding the White House’s role in negotiating peace, she is pleased, explaining Washington “places its finger on the right place, and realizes the main issue in the Middle East is Iran.” Hotevely adds the White House realizes uprooting Jews and Arabs alike is not a good idea, and “settlements are not the problem”. That said, when asked, she confirmed there are no promises that settlements will not be removed in a peace agreement.
She stated: “We have three principals [for peace] which includes the IDF will remain in place between the Jordan Valley and Mediterranean, (2) Jerusalem will always remain the united capital of Israel and (3) which I mentioned already, no Jews or Arabs will be uprooted.”
She highlights this is the first US administration since 1967 that does not view settlements as an obstacle to peace, pointing out Arab nations refused to recognize Israel long before 1967.
The i24 interviewer mentions that she was scheduled to speak at the Princeton University Hillel, but the latter canceled her appearance, blaming it on the pressure exerted by Jewish students who do not agree with with her positions. Chabad did agree to host her.
She was asked “Is Israel losing young Jews of America [based on the decision by Hillel to cancel your appearance] and doesn’t your government have some responsibility for some of the policies that you are perusing and not just the Palestinians?”
Not being put on the defensive, she explains “it is something really bad” that students who do not agree with her opinion pressured to cancel her appearance, questioning the lack of tolerance for another opinion.
“What is happening to freedom of speech… inviting a representative of the Israeli government and canceling on the same day… you should be concerned about this liberal dictatorship…those young people in top universities are unwilling to hear the voice of another opinion.”
Conversation shifts to the ongoing machlokes with Reform Jews praying as they wish at the Kosel.
Hotevely speaks of the solution, the area called “Ezrat Yisrael”, which she visited and describes as being beautiful. “Most of the time it is empty,” explaining “not because they don’t like the arrangement but most of the time, they are not even interested in going to the Kosel.”
She goes on to explain in the Ezrat Yisrael they can have egalitarian prayer, entire families together, pointing out this is not what they seek, but rather for them, “this is a political matter to get recognition through the Kosel issue.”
The conversation then turns to Jews living outside Israel, many of whom are considered more liveral than Israeli Jews. Hotevely stated: “This is the home of all Jews of all streams. You are welcome to come and influence Israeli politics. Please come. I am willing not to have a right-wing leadership to have all Jews share this amazing place called Israel.”
“The other issue is not understanding the complexity of the region,” she said. “People that never send their children to fight for their country, most of the 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.”
While her remarks pertaining to US Jewry and the Reform are viewed by many as being not politically correct, including to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, there can be no dispute that Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotevely was in essence correct.
That said, the Prime Minister’s Office was quick to release a message distancing itself from Hotevely’s remarks.
The PMO’s statement read: “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemns Tzipi Hotevely’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.”
There was a storm in response to Hotevely’s remarks, leading her to issue a clarification and an apology. She stressed American Jewry makes large contributions to Israel as well as influence government policies and Israel remains home to all Jews.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)