While other guest speakers before him sought to paper over the differences between Israeli and Diaspora Jews on religion and politics, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Federation leaders on Wednesday that the truth is, some of those differences may not be bridgeable.
“Here’s the bad news: They are never, ever, ever going to go away,” he said. “It’s just not possible given the extraordinary difference of perspectives, all legitimate,” he told the 700 delegates to the Jewish Federation of North America’s annual General Assembly in Tel Aviv.
Including himself in the unbridgeables, Friedman described himself as an “unapologetic right-wing defender of Israel.”
“I will bet that there are people in this room who disagree with me on Israel policy. I’m a security hawk. That’s who I am,” he said.
Friedman also suggested to the assemblage that they accept the major differences between the American and Israeli political systems, notably the separation of church and state in America versus the state of Israel, which calls itself Jewish as well as democratic. It may not be a comfortable situation for American Jews, “but that’s what is,” he said.
But even he made a gesture to the conference’s declared goal of Jewish unity:
“I value your thinking, I respect your views and, most importantly, I’m grateful that you care, that you care enough to form an opinion on this incredibly important subject, and we can now have a discussion.”
“Apathy is our enemy, not disagreement,” he said.