September 27, 2023

While some organizations praise Israel’s ‘vibrant democracy,’ others express concern over some politicians

After Israel announced the final results days after Tuesday’s election, some Jewish organizations in the United States began releasing statements welcoming the new government, while others expressed concern.

The likely parliament (Knesset) will be led by right-wing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, which is nothing new for the Jewish state. However, the inclusion of the far-right Religious Zionism party and its senior members Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir are drawing ire from some Jewish organizations.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobbying group more commonly known by the acronym AIPAC, put out a Twitter thread Wednesday evening, congratulating the Israeli public for “again demonstrating its commitment to democracy and free and fair elections.”

“As Israel determines the formation of its new government, it is clear that the Knesset – like the U.S. Congress – will include leaders of a wide range of different political, ideological, economic, racial, and religious identities and perspectives.”

The Jewish Federations of North America’s statement saluted “Israel’s vibrant democratic process.”

“We look forward to working with the government selected by the Israeli people, as we always have.”

The Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, also released a statement but expressed concern. The organization noted it was “committed to calling out hatred and supremacist ideologies wherever they manifest,” without mentioning politicians by name.

“Campaign rhetoric and governing effectively are two different things. We expect every Israeli government to uphold and strengthen democracy, treat all people with respect for their political and human rights, and recognize and support the diversity of the Jewish community in Israel and the diaspora.”

However, the congregational arm of Reform Judaism in North America, the Union for Reform Judaism, specifically named Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, saying the organization was “profoundly concerned” about the promises of cabinet positions for the “ultra-nationalist” party leaders.

“Their platforms and past actions indicate that they would curtail the authority of Israel’s Supreme Court and inhibit the rights of Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and large segments of Jews who are non-Orthodox,” the statement continued.

“Including Ben Gvir and Smotrich in the government will likely jeopardize Israel’s democracy and will force the country to reckon with its place on the world stage.”

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