Netanyahu Infuriates Israeli Leaders With Unusual Silence On Charlottesville

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to comment strongly on the Saturday violence in Charlottesville infuriated Israeli leaders, who pressured him Thursday to directly condemn anti-semitic groups at the rally.

Israeli political leaders noted that Netanyahu, who in the past has quickly denounced high profile anti-semitic acts, took three days to respond to Charlottesville with a tweet that did not explicitly address the rally, according to the Associated Press. Netanyahu’s tweet decried anti-semitism and neo-Nazis in general and called on leaders to denounce anti-semitic hatred.

Israeli leaders were quick to assert that Netanyahu refused to take a strong stance against the groups at Charlottesville to avoid criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump.

Israel “must not stammer or hesitate in the face of anti-Semitism,” said Israeli deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan. “Apparently some don’t want to enrage Trump.” Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni echoed Ben-Dahan’s criticism of Netanyahu, according to AP.

Eytan Gilboa, U.S. Israeli relations expert at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, said Ben-Dahan’s criticisms were accurate and that Netanyahu’s reticence to criticize Trump alienated American Jews.

“He does not want to alienate Trump,” Gilboa told AP.

Lawmaker and leader of the Israeli opposition party, Shelly Yachimovich, pulled no punches in her criticism of Netanyahu on Facebook.

“And you, prime minister of the Jewish people in their land, who warns us about the Holocaust every Monday and Thursday, with overdoses of fear and arrogance and weeks of ‘Never Again,’ what about you?” Yachimovich said in her post.

Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., shared in a post on his Facebook page that Netanyahu asked him to “convey Israel’s outrage” over the anti-semitic demonstrations.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s exact words were that these people should crawl back under the rock they came from,” the post said.

Still, Jewish leaders remained dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s comments, both direct and indirect.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest synagogue movement in America, told AP that Netanyahu “did harm to the cause of Israel and the cause of the Jewish people by having such a delayed reaction.”

“Three days went by without a full-throated condemnation. It was quite distressing,” Jacobs added.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett took point in Israel’s denunciation of the Charlottesville rally, and called on U.S. leaders Sunday to “condemn and denounce the displays of antisemitism seen over the past few days,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

“The unhindered waving of Nazi flags and symbols in the US is not only offensive toward the Jewish community and other minorities, it also disrespects the millions of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to protect the US and entire world from the Nazis,” Bennett added.

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