Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his participation in a huge Sunday evening event in honor of Israel's 75th Independence Day - presumably because of the huge protests planned inside and outside of the Expo Tel Aviv convention center in Jerusalem.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has informed us that he is not able to appear at tonight’s event sponsored by Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Hayesod, and the World Zionist Organization celebrating the last 75 years of our communities’ investment and support in the state of Israel’s growth and development," the organizers of the event sent to the participants.
"We thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for his message of friendship between our communities."General Assembly organizers
"We thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for his message of friendship between our communities and his acknowledgment of the important role North American Jewry has played in building and developing the state of Israel. We look forward to hearing from President Isaac Herzog tonight and wish him continued luck in advancing a compromise agreement on judicial reforms that will be acceptable to the broad majority of Israelis and strengthen Israel’s democratic institutions," the message to participants read.
Dr. David Barak-Gorodetsky, head of the Ruderman Program for American-Jewish Studies at the University of Haifa and an expert in US Jewry told The Jerusalem Post that "throughout the years, American Jewish organizations have managed to work across the isle in Israel." He added that it is "important to keep the American Jewish relationship with Israel bipartisan and not have the American Jewish community be identified with just one side of the political discussion in Israel. To that end, the JFNA announcement is commendable, but the current situation presents unprecedented challenges. Let's hope unity will prevail."
JFNA wasn't worried about planned protests
President and CEO of JFNA Eric Fingerhut told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he is “not afraid” of the outcome of planned protests before and during the then-planned Netanyahu speech on Sunday.
“Obviously we hope that the people who are coming to protest understand that the event that they're protesting is an event being held by an organization that is so deeply dedicated to the future of Israel and has been so deeply involved in everything that has happened and in the State of Israel,” he said.
Thousands of protesters were planning on surrounding Expo Tel Aviv where the conference is expected to take place, together with the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod and the World Zionist Organization. They planned to protest against Netanyahu because of the proposed judicial reforms, even though their legislation has stopped and there are currently negotiations taking place at the President’s residence.
“I hope the protesters understand how we have assisted the State of Israel for the past 100 years, even before that state was established. I hope that will factor into how they conduct themselves,” Fingerhut said on Thursday.
Anna Kislanski, CEO of The Israeli Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism responded to the cancellation of Netanyahu in a statement with a hint of criticism towards the leadership of the organizations hosting the event.
It would be better if from the beginning [the organizers] would understand the murmur of our hearts and those of our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora regarding the Prime Minister," Kislanski said. She added that Netanyahu's "submission to extreme groups Jewish groups, who have been bullying [progressive Judaism] for years, has been alienating them from Israel and signaling the deepest rift between Israel and the Diaspora." She explained that in her opinion the organizers "shouldn't have invited him in the first place." She also criticized the fact that MK Simcha Rothman, chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, is still speaking on Monday.