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Jewish American leaders criticise Netanyahu for promoting Kahanists

February 21, 2019 at 11:48 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 21 January 2019 [Mehahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images]

Jewish American leaders yesterday criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following news that the Likud leader successfully pushed for the merger of Jewish Home and radical rightist faction Jewish Power, whose leadership includes supporters of notorious rabbi Meir Kahane.

Speaking to Haaretz, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Union for Reform Judaism – the largest Jewish organisation in North America – said it was “deeply distressing to imagine that those who follow in the footsteps of Meir Kahana could be welcomed into Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political circle”.

“Bolstering one’s political strength with the political party Otzma Yehudit [Jewish Power], which professes racist views of Arabs, should be unthinkable.”

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Robert Wexler, a former Democratic Congressman described by Haaretz as “a strong supporter of Israel’s security needs during his time in Washington”, said: “This will complicate efforts to advocate for Israel, especially within the Jewish community. What are we supposed to tell our children?”

Wexler added: “We, Zionists and supporters of Israel in America, spend so much effort to rightly expose and highlight incitement on the Palestinian side. So when the Prime Minister gives this legitimacy to such an extreme party, it hurts our efforts. I fear that it will introduce some degree of moral equivalence and serve to rationalise incitement. That’s not helpful.”

Susie Gelman, chair of the Israel Policy Forum, told the paper that “Netanyahu’s actions are feeding the estrangement of young American Jews from Israel, but they are also having an impact on people of my generation – people who have supported Israel for their entire adult lives.”

CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted: “ADL previously has spoken out on hate-filled rhetoric of leaders of the Otzma Yehudit Party, it is troubling that they are being legitimized by this union.”