Livni to ‘Post:’ Gov’t is alienating Diaspora Jews

Opposition leader to tour N. America addressing conversion, civil marriage, peace process, deterioration of Israel’s image internationally.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 22, 2010 03:44
2 minute read.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni

Tzipi Livni 311 Ariel J. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government has taken steps that have expedited the reportedly growing rift between Israel and liberal Diaspora Jews, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post and an opinion piece she wrote for Wednesday’s newspaper.

In an effort to mend the purported rift, Livni will soon embark on a North American tour to meet with college students, rabbis from all religious streams and American and Canadian Jewish leaders. The highlight of her visit is expected to be a town hall meeting with students at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

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“The main idea of the trip is to open a dialogue with the Jewish Diaspora,” Livni said. “It’s been important to me for a long time, but it intensified over the past few months with the conversion controversy. It reinforced my belief that we cannot continue to deal only with ourselves when our efforts to define what it means for Israel to be the Jewish homeland and a democracy affect Jews all around the world.”

Livni said the conversion issue was not the only way the current government was alienating Diaspora Jewry. She also cited the lack of civil marriage, the lagging peace process and the deterioration of Israel’s image internationally.

“The Likud is supposed to be a liberal party, but it has sold out to the haredim on key issues,” she said. “Advancing the peace process is an Israeli interest and a Jewish one. It could help young people connect more at a time when Israel’s problematic image hurts their identity.”

Problems with Jewish identity were something that young Diaspora and Israeli Jews had in common, she said. Young, non-Orthodox Israelis needed more to unite them than Hebrew language and army service.



“We need to get into dialogue that isn’t just telling Diaspora Jews to make aliya and support whatever the Israeli government does,” she said. “It has to be much deeper. We have to work on our common bond.”

As opposition leader, Livni said she will learn more about issues important to Diaspora Jews so she could be ready to deal with them if she gets elected. She said she would also continue to take Diaspora Jewry’s side against the government on issues like conversion.

When asked what she would do to improve Israeli- Diaspora if she were prime minister, she praised the MASA and Taglit-Birthright Israel programs and said there should be more dialogue with American Jewish philanthropists about mutual goals for educating young Jews in Israel and around the world.

“The contribution of Diaspora Jews is not just money,” she said. “We must take their views into account on key issues when we make key decisions about Israel’s future.”

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