Bennett criticized for defending Trump in Pittsburgh

"Antisemites don't ask if you're Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. How about the Israeli government?”

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October 31, 2018 14:00
2 minute read.
 NAFTALI BENNETT

NAFTALI BENNETT. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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There was significant backlash on Wednesday to the defense of US President Donald Trump by Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, with several prominent public figures questioning the wisdom of the comments, and the minister’s record on advancing the interests of Diaspora Jews in Israel.

Bennett on Tuesday spoke out strongly for Trump against accusations that he bears any responsibility for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the political atmosphere surrounding it, calling such attacks “unfair and wrong.”

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Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern said that Trump “does not have direct responsibility,” but said that a leader must know that if he approaches a dangerous redline and stops just short, his followers are liable to cross it.

“A shepherd who leads his flock or a leader of a community who thinks that he will stop on the precipice of an abyss and that everyone will stop with him must take into account that there will always be some who will nevertheless continue over into that abyss,” said Stern.

Shalom Lipner, a former adviser on foreign policy and Jewish communal affairs to several prime ministers, argued that Bennett’s comments so close to the US midterm elections would be seen as partisan interference by the Israeli government in US domestic affairs, especially given the already troubled relations between Israel and the Democratic Party.

“Can’t overemphasize how misguided + irresponsible this is: an Israeli minister coming to Pittsburgh and hitting the campaign trail for Trump one week before the midterms. Israel is already enough of a partisan football in America; why would Bennett want to make the problem worse?” wrote Lipner on Twitter on Wednesday.

Columnist and author Peter Beinart took a swipe at Bennett’s commitment to US Jewry, which is largely non-Orthodox, and his comments that “antisemites do not ask if you are a Republican or Democrat. They do not ask if you are Orthodox, Conservative or Reform.”

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Quipped Beinart on Twitter, “Yes, antisemites don’t ask if you’re Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. How about the Israeli government?” in reference to the lack of legal standing for the progressive Jewish denominations in Israel.

MK Aliza Lavie of Yesh Atid said similarly that she is “still waiting, like many others in Israel and the US,” to hear from Bennett a statement that he is “committed to the implementation of the Western Wall agreement and the passage of a conversion law.” She was referring to two issues that have been a severe point of contention between Israel and large parts of the US Jewish leadership.

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