Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered his country’s Ministry of Defense to immediately shut down its campaign of moving Israelis into the territory of the future Palestinian state. This week, the Jewish Federations of North America called the settlements “insulting,” and the head of the Anti-Defamation League said they were “demeaning.”
This reporter just got off the phone with the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who had brought the fierce American opposition to the campaign to the attention of the Prime Minister. Oren read to me the following statement:
The Defense Ministry campaign clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities, and we regret any offense it caused. The campaign, which aimed to encourage Israelis living in Israel to move to areas captured in the Six Day War, was a laudable one, and it was not meant to cause insult. The campaign was conducted with the knowledge and approval of the Prime Minister’s office and the Israeli embassy in Washington. Prime Minister Netanyahu, once made aware of the injustice, illegality and fierce opposition to the campaign, ordered the settlements immediately removed from the future Palestinian State. The Prime Minister deeply values the American Jewish community and is committed to deepening ties between it and the State of Israel. For this reason, we will now work to establish a Constitution that completely separates synagogue and state and protects the rights of all our citizens and residents. We are embarking on this policy not only to safeguard the future democratic nature of the State of Israel and the Jewish values that underpin it, but to ensure that future generations of Israel’s best and brightest will choose to remain here instead of emigrating abroad.
The statement from the Office of the Prime Minister immediately followed a historic letter by the Jewish Federations of North America:
TO: JFNA Board of Trustees Federation Presidents and Executive Directors
FROM: Kathy E. Manning, Chair, JFNA Board of Trustees Michael C. Gelman, Chair, JFNA Executive Committee Jerry Silverman, JFNA President & CEO RE: Israel Settlement Campaign
Dear Colleagues, This is to follow up on an earlier note from the JFNA Israel office concerning a the Israeli Ministry of Defense campaign attempting to lure Israelis to settle in territories captured in the Six Day War.
While we recognize the motivations behind the policy, we are strongly opposed to the messaging that American Jews do not understand Israel. We share the concerns many of you have expressed that this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship, not to mention Israel’s future as a democracy.
For that reason, we have made our concerns known to Israeli officials in the United States, and are delivering a strong letter to the Prime Minister’s office asking the government to stop this initiative and to reconsider the strategy behind it. We have also offered to help play a role in rethinking this effort.
We will keep you informed with updates as soon as possible.