Analysis: The storm Hotovely wrought

Suddenly Netanyahu goes from being the one responsible for trampling on the sensitivities of American Jewry to becoming the defender of their sensitivities by going after Hotovely.

November 25, 2017 01:01
3 minute read.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely pictured at Columbia University.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely pictured at Columbia University.. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely can add a new title to her resume: Fall guy.

No sooner had she poorly articulated a valid point – that American Jews don’t fully understand the reality of life in Israel because they don’t send their children to the army or live under the threat of missile attack – then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the unusual step of publicly rebuking her.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemns Tzipi Hotovely’s offensive remarks regarding the American Jewish community,” his office said in a statement. “The Jews of the Diaspora are dear to us and are an inseparable part of our people. There is no place for such attacks, and her remarks do not reflect the position of the State of Israel.”

It was even reported later that Netanyahu was considering firing Hotovely for those remarks.

In reality, however, he might actually want to give her a promotion, because she presented him with a perfect opportunity to deflect the widespread criticism from segments of American Jewry over his handling of the issue of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall.

It is Netanyahu, remember, whom many leaders of the organized Jewish community in the US accused of reneging on a signed deal to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall – choosing, in their words, his own political good over the good of the Jewish people.

So then Hotovely comes around, and with one poorly thought-out comment, the premier can score points by leading those who are condemning her.

Suddenly Netanyahu goes from being the one responsible for trampling on the sensitivities of American Jewry, by not enabling them to pray as they wish at the Western Wall, to becoming the defender of their sensitivities by going after Hotovely.

Hotovely, however, is not blameless in this saga. Her point was valid, but the way she put it was clumsy and tactless. Hotovely: US Jews lead ‘convenient’ lives, don’t serve in the military (i24 News)

Asked in an i24News television interview if she could understand why many American Jews say they no longer feel connected to Israel – due to an ideological divide, the broken Western Wall agreement, conversion issues and the lack of peace with the Palestinians – Hotovely said, “I can’t understand that. Maybe they are too young to remember how it feels to be a Jewish person without the Jewish homeland.”

Then she continued, “But there is another issue. And I think it is not understanding the complexity of the region. People who never send their children to fight for their country – most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, going to Iraq – most of them are having quite convenient lives. They don’t feel what it feels like to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis.”

Why mention the Marines, Afghanistan or Iraq? To what end? That was a gratuitous remark which played into the antisemitic trope that Jews don’t fight for the lands in which they live.

But that was obviously not what Hotovely was trying to say. Her point was that American Jews cannot fully understand the Israeli psyche or the reality here because they don’t experience sending their kids to the army and the daily stress that entails, or what it’s like to live under the constant threat of terrorism.

That is less casting aspersions and more stating a fact. True, some American Jews serve in the US Army and in the IDF, but the overwhelming majority of this generation does not. Her point is simple – perspective is gained by having skin in the game.

This, by the way, is true both for those right-wing American Jews who can be heard calling from time-to-time for Israel to “carpet-bomb” Gaza, and for those left-wing American Jews calling on Israel to take any and all risks for peace.

Things look different if your kids have to do the “carpet bombing,” or have to pay the price and go to war if those risks for peace fail.

That does not mean American Jews do not have the right to express an opinion or criticize.

Instead, it means that to understand why Israel does much of what it does, it is necessary to understand the tensions and insecurities of life here.

Perhaps had Hotovely said that, Netanyahu would not have threatened to fire her.

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