Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
(photo credit: AMIT SHABAY/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments on three different occasions over the last week that Israel is home to all Jews are intended to send a reassuring message to segments of Diaspora Jewry infuriated by Religious Services Minister David Azoulay’s deprecating remarks about Reform Jewry last week, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office acknowledged on Tuesday.
Azoulay (Shas) was quoted last week as saying during a discussion about the Women of the Wall organization that Reform Judaism “is a disaster for the Jewish people.”
His comments triggered numerous calls for Netanyahu to repudiate the statement, and even fire Azoulay, something politically unrealistic since it would inevitably spark a coalition crisis.
Instead, Netanyahu issued a statement last Wednesday night saying that he “strongly” disagreed with Azoulay’s statement, and then echoed that in speeches he gave Thursday night at the 2015 Genesis Prize ceremony and Sunday to the Jewish Agency.
The initial statement from the Prime Minister’s Office read, “As he has in the past, the prime minister will ensure that Israel remains a place where all Jews can feel at home.”
On Thursday night, at the Genesis Prize event, he said that “all Jews can feel at home here.”
Netanyahu said he was “committed to strengthening the unity of the Jewish people, and I will continue to reject any attempt to divide the Jewish people and to delegitimize any Jewish community. Everyone is welcome – Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox alike.
And on Sunday morning, in an address to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Netanyahu returned again to the theme of every Jew being welcomed in Israel.
“I want you to know that I have spent a good portion of my political life ensuring that Israel remain the homeland of every Jew – Reform, Conservative, Orthodox,” he said. “This is what Israel is about and will remain about.”