Bennett takes on Lauder: Don’t blame Israel for U.S. Jews assimilating

The education minister pushed back against Lauder's assertion that Israel is responsible for assimilation.

March 20, 2018 08:38
2 minute read.
Ronald Lauder (L) and Naftali Bennett (R).

Ronald Lauder (L) and Naftali Bennett (R).. (photo credit: SIVAN FARAG/MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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Education and Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett politely but firmly disagreed with a New York Times Op-Ed written by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, implying Israel bears responsibility for the assimilation of Jewish millennials in the US.

Speaking on Monday in Jerusalem at the Foreign Ministry-sponsored Sixth Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, Bennett – just ahead of Lauder – said: “Ron, I read your piece in The New York Times – not a great piece.

I very much respect you, but I disagree. Assimilation in America in not a result of Israeli policies, assimilation is the result of prosperity in America, and it predates the Six Day War, it predates the intifada, and it is an ongoing trend that we have to fight back [against].”

Furthermore, Bennett said, he disagreed with Lauder’s placing Palestinian incitement and Israeli settlement construction in the same basket in his article, saying that there is no “moral equivalence between settlement building, what I call ‘building in our communities in our homeland,’ and Palestinian incitement. It is not the same thing.”

With that, Bennett added: “I will continue to deeply respect you, and we will continue to debate because that is what Israel is about.”

Lauder, when he came to the podium to speak, said only that he and Bennett are working toward the same goals.

In his op-ed headlined “Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds,” Lauder wrote that “today I fear for the future of the nation I love,” and pointed out that there were two “grave threats” that “could endanger [Israel’s] very existence.”

The first, he said, is the “possible demise of the two-state solution. Palestinian incitement and intransigence are destructive. But so, too, are annexation plans, pushed by those on the right, and extensive Jewish settlement- building beyond the separation line.”

The second threat to Israel’s existence, he wrote, “is Israel’s capitulation to religious extremists and the growing disaffection of the Jewish Diaspora.”

He charged that many of the seven million non-Haredi Jews in the Diaspora “have come to feel, particularly over the last few years, that the nation that they have supported politically, financially and spiritually is turning its back on them. By submitting to the pressures exerted by a minority in Israel, the Jewish state is alienating a large segment of the Jewish people. The crisis is especially pronounced among the younger generation, which is predominantly secular,” he asserted.

“An increasing number of Jewish millennials, particularly in the United States, are distancing themselves from Israel because its policies contradict their values.

The results are unsurprising: assimilation, alienation and a severe erosion of the global Jewish community’s affinity for the Jewish homeland.”

Lauder was considered for many years to be a close friend of Netanyahu’s, and served him from time to time as a diplomatic envoy, most famously to Syria in the late 1990s.

The two had a falling out in 2011, however, when Lauder – who was then a co-owner of Channel 10 – did not step in to stop critical stories dealing with trips taken by Netanyahu and his family.

Lauder reportedly has US President Donald Trump’s ear on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and was reported to have told the president a number of months ago that while the Palestinians are “desperate” for a deal, Israel is the problem.

He met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas last year before the latter’s meeting with Trump, a move that reportedly angered Netanyahu.

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