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Israeli Diplomat Under Fire For Questioning American Jews’ Military Service

A senior Israeli diplomat is in hot water over remarks she made about the American Jewish community’s service in the U.S. armed forces and supposed lack of understanding about threats to Israel’s security.

When asked about criticism of Israeli security policies by some Jewish Americans, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely questioned whether “people that never send their children to fight for their country” could understand Israel’s position.

“Most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan or to Iraq,” she said in an English-language interview on i24 TV news, according to Reuters. Hotovely went on to say that Jewish critics of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians “don’t know how it feels” to be attacked by rockets and face other threats “on a daily basis.”

Those remarks drew a swift rebuke from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, like Hotovely, is a member of Israel’s right-wing Likud party. In a statement, Netanyahu called Hotovely’s comments “hurtful.”

“There is no place for such a harangue and her remarks do not reflect the State of Israel’s position,” he said.

Conservative Israelis and more liberal American Jews have often been at odds over contentious issues such as treatment of the Palestinian minority, settlement building in the disputed West Bank, and rules governing religious practices at Jerusalem’s holy sites. But Hotovely’s remarks appeared to dig further than normal by questioning the commitment of American Jews to their own country, an idea that Jewish groups in the U.S. say is an anti-Semitic trope.

In a 2013 survey, the Pew Research Center estimated there were roughly 5.3 million Jewish Americans — 2.2 percent of the U.S. population — counting both observant and non-religious Jews.

The U.S. military no longer records the religion of recruits, but a 2009 survey published by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission estimated that 1.09 percent of the members of the armed forces are Jewish, according to Reuters.

Hotevely walked back her remarks somewhat on Thursday, saying that she was trying discuss the complexity of life in Israel under the persistent cloud of terrorism, reports left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

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