(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants were divided on Saturday night about whether or not he believes non-Orthodox Jewry in the US will disappear in two generations, due to assimilation and the low birthrate among American progressive Jews.
The Jerusalem Post
Makor Rishon diplomatic correspondent Ariel Kahane quoted Netanyahu on Friday as making that prediction in closed conversations and saying that Israel had to prepare accordingly. According to the report, Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer has been heard making similar assessments recently.
spoke Saturday night to sources who anonymously confirmed that they have privately heard Netanyahu express that view, as well as to Netanyahu confidants who deny on the record that this is the prime minister’s opinion.
“I can confirm that this is an accurate description of his views, and I know 100% that he said it,” said one source, while another said two people close to the prime minister told him they had heard him say it.
The sources said Netanyahu believes that due to the diminishing numbers among American Reform and Conservative Jews
, Israel should instead rely for the future on the growing Orthodox population and Evangelical Christians.
“There are two schools of thought, that Israel must preserve these Jews, and that they are a lost cause, so Israel must preserve its base,” a source close to the prime minister said. “Netanyahu might actually be in both schools.”
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Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who Netanyahu tasked with resolving a dispute with US Jews over egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, said he “never ever heard” Netanyahu write off progressive American Jewry and that it is “not reasonable” that this is his thinking.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is close to Netanyahu, said he had also never heard the prime minister say such things, even in closed conversations.
“To the best of my knowledge, those are not his views,” said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren, a former ambassador to the US.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in response: “The article is not accurate and does not reflect Prime Minister Netanyahu’s views. Prime Minister Netanyahu respects all streams of Judaism.”
Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai said: “Israel must get involved in a significant way to help the American Jewish community strengthen its Jewish connection and its connection to Israel. Let’s not give up. The future tends to surprise us.”