Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely apologized on Thursday night for a comment about American Jews critical of Israel that brought down on her head a rain of condemnations and reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was considering firing her.
Hotovely had said in an interview that American Jews don’t understand the Mideast because “most don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having quite comfortable lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel deals with on a daily basis.
In response to the uproar her remarks touched off, Hotovely told Channel 2 afterwards that she had not meant to offend anyone.
Citing her National Service with the Jewish community in Atlanta when she was 18, she said, “I’ve focused on the issue of Jewish communities in the U.S. for the past 20 years, and I see us as family.”
“They are my brothers and sisters. If someone was offended by what I said, I am truly sorry.”
The apology did not satisfy Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Jewry in North America. He demanded that Hotovely be fired. “This is not the time to say wonderful words to us in English about how important we are; Netanyahu must fire her now — that’s the minimum required,” Jacobs told Israel’s Channel 2.
Not everyone shared in the condemnations.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the former vice president of Young Israel and the president of the Coalition for Jewish Values in the U.S., backed Hotovely, saying that he did not understand why Netanyahu was angry at her.
“She only spoke the truth…Everyone understands that there is a problem that American Jews don’t understand the realities here [in Israel]. Just because they are Americans, we should accept their opinions?” he was quoted as saying by Arutz Sheva.
Rabbi Lerner said that the deputy minister’s remarks did not create any schism with Diaspora Jewry. “There is already a schism, since liberal Jews don’t understand the situation in Israel and think they know what is good for it. They think two-state solutions will work. Even [Labor leader] Avi Gabbay has understood that it is not a realistic solution.
It was noteworthy, however, that none of Hotevely’s colleagues in Likud or Jewish Home spoke in defense as of Thursday evening.