Government officials expressed “disappointment” during recent conversations with
US Jewish leaders at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments about
threats to Israeli democracy, even as the Prime Minister’s Office continues to
remain publicly silent on the matter.
Clinton, during a closed session at
the Saban Forum in Washington on Saturday, was reported in the Israeli press as
having criticized efforts in the Knesset to restrict the foreign funding of
Livni defends Clinton criticism of Israel democracy
'Clinton's worry for Israeli democracy exaggerated'
She was also reported to have likened
efforts in the haredi sector to have separate seating on buses for males and
females to Rosa Parks, the black civil rights icon who refused to give up her
seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus in 1955. Likewise, she
reportedly said that the refusal of some religious IDF soldiers to listen to
female singers reminded her of the situation in Iran.
nor the State Department, has denied or issued any public clarification of her
In conversations with the US Jewish leaders, which the
government officials likely believed would be passed on, a great deal of
displeasure was registered about comparing separate seating on buses among the
haredi community to racial segregation in the Jim Crow US South.
comparison between the issue of Orthodox Jews and what happened to Rosa Parks is
simply beyond the pale,” the officials said. They also noted that haredi buses
with separate seating for men and women travel daily in Clinton’s home state of
New York, but that no one is saying that poses a threat to US
The officials said that comparing Israel to Iran because of the issue of
religious soldiers leaving a ceremony rather than listening to
women sing was “equally disappointing.”
The officials pointed out that
women currently head the Supreme Court (Dorit Beinisch) and the main opposition
party (Tzipi Livni), and that in the past a woman served as prime minister
(Golda Meir), and another as Knesset speaker (Dalia Itzik).
unreasonable, the officials said, to draw any comparison between women’s status
in Israel and in Iran, where women have been sentenced to death for
“Is there a law in Israel, like in France, preventing women
from wearing a burka?” the officials asked in their conversations.
there a law here, like in Switzerland, banning the construction of minarets on
mosques? Is there really a threat to Israeli democracy?”