NEW YORK – Former Israeli prime minister and current opposition leader Yair Lapid met with North American Jewish leadership in New York on Monday as part of his visit to the United States in which he is trying to help repair the fraying ties between the two countries.
The convening, hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America at UJA-Federation of New York's headquarters in Manhattan, included leaders from the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel Policy Forum, National Council of Jewish Women, Hillel International, Orthodox Union, Reconstructing Judaism, Israel Judaism Committee, National Coalition Supporting Soviet Jewry, Zioness, Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, and UJA-Federation of New York.
The meeting took place as the debate over a proposed judicial overhaul intensifies in Israel. Last month, in an unprecedented move, 30 Federation leaders came to Israel from the US for 24 hours to meet with lawmakers from the governing coalition as well as the parliamentary opposition. Their main focus was on a proposal that would allow a simple majority of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to override Supreme Court rulings.
The federation system — whose local branches aim to act as representatives of their local Jewish communities — has historically avoided criticism of Israeli government actions. Last month, the federations’ umbrella organization took the extraordinary step of writing to Israeli political leaders to oppose the override legislation and to urge compromise.
Lapid told American Jewish leaders on Monday that shared democratic values between the US and Israel are critical and said the US was a vital partner in supporting Israel as a democratic, Jewish state. The bond between the two countries is more important and strategic than ever, he said.
Lapid added that US Jewry cannot give up on Israel, saying that Israel is here to stay while governments come and go.
Jewish Federations of North America Chair Julie Platt said that it was important to find common ground.
“We know that the differences of opinion in Israel today are deep and challenging. We in the Jewish Federation system have expressed our opinions where we felt it necessary to do so, as have other organizations represented here this evening,” she said. “But above all, together with so many other organizations in this meeting, we have expressed our strongest possible encouragement that every party must do its utmost to seek and find compromise.”
While in New York, Lapid is also expected to meet with two local Democratic congressmen Jerry Nadler and Ritchie Torres.
Lapid comes to the US 'against the backdrop of crisis'
The visit “comes against the backdrop of the crisis that has intensified in recent weeks between the US and Israel,” Lapid’s spokesperson said.
As Lapid landed in the US on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party fell to a dramatic third place in Channel 13 poll with only 20 seats.
The trip also comes a couple of weeks after US President Joe Biden said last month that Netanyahu would not be invited to the White House in the near future.
Tovah Lazaroff and Ron Kampeas/JTA contributed to this report.