Jerusalem, EU clash over na­tion-state bill

PM sum­mons am­bas­sador • Com­plaints about leg­is­la­tion reach Con­gress

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By GIL HOFF­MAN

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu sum­moned Euro­pean Union Am­bas­sador Emanuele Gi­aufret to be rep­ri­manded, fol­low­ing a Chan­nel 2 re­port that he had called MKs to warn them of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the govern­ment’s flag­ship leg­is­la­tion: the Jewish na­tion-state bill.

“As if it is not enough that the EU funds or­ga­ni­za­tions that un­der­mine Is­rael and il­le­gal con­struc­tion, now it is also in­ter­fer­ing in Is­raeli leg­is­la­tion,” the prime min­is­ter said. “They ap­par­ently do not un­der­stand that Is­rael is a sov­er­eign state.”

The sum­mons is part of in­creas­ing ten­sion be­tween Is­rael and the EU, which has been pres­sur­ing the coun­try not to de­mol­ish the Be­douin vil­lage of Khan al-Ah­mar.

Con­gress­men have also com­plained about the bill to Is­rael’s Am­bas­sador to the United States, Ron Dermer, and asked him to re­lay their con­cerns to Ne­tanyahu, sources among the US Jewish lead­er­ship re­vealed to The Jerusalem Post on Thurs­day.

The con­gress­men are con­cerned about clauses in the bill that could en­able Jewish com­mu­ni­ties to pre­vent Arabs from liv­ing there, re­move Ara­bic from be­ing an of­fi­cial lan­guage of Is­rael, as well as a clause that could po­ten­tially harm Di­as­pora Jews in Is­rael.

Jewish Fed­er­a­tions of North Amer­ica pres­i­dent Jerry Sil­ver­man in­tends to ar­rive on Sun­day to per­son­ally lobby Ne­tanyahu and other of­fi­cials against the bill. The head of the com­mit­tee leg­is­lat­ing the bill, MK Amir Ohana (Likud), re­jected a re­quest by the Jewish Agency to al­low Sil­ver­man to speak to the com­mit­tee against the leg­is­la­tion.

Agency chair­man Natan Sha­ran­sky wrote Ohana ex­press­ing con­cern about a front-page Post re­port about a deal the Likud made with United To­rah Ju­daism that changed the clause in the bill about the Di­as­pora.

The old ver­sion of the bill said “the state will take ac­tion to main­tain the con­nec­tion be­tween the state and the Jewish peo­ple wher­ever they are.” The new ver­sion re­placed “wher­ever they are” with “in the Di­as­pora.” UTJ MKs said they re­quested the change, be­cause they did not want the state to help Di­as­pora Jews ad­vance re­li­gious plu­ral­ism in Is­rael in gen­eral and at the Western Wall in par­tic­u­lar.

Sha­ran­sky’s re­quest led to a speech to the com­mit­tee by Jewish Agency sec­re­tary-gen­eral Josh Schwartz, who warned

that there would be neg­a­tive ram­i­fi­ca­tions to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Is­rael and the Di­as­pora if the bill is not changed back to its orig­i­nal word­ing

“We are get­ting a lot of com­plaints, es­pe­cially about that clause,” Schwartz told the MKs. “It takes Is­rael out of the places where it is re­spon­si­ble for Di­as­pora Jews. Do Is­raelis not need to know about Di­as­pora Jewry? Do they not need to rec­og­nize them and be wel­com­ing to them?”

Schwartz said chang­ing the clause sent the wrong mes­sage to Amer­i­can Jews who ad­vo­cate on be­half of Is­rael. He warned that the bill “gives am­mu­ni­tion to the BDS cam­paign against Is­rael,” cit­ing in­for­ma­tion ob­tained that BDS ac­tivists are pre­par­ing to use the bill against Is­rael im­me­di­ately when it passes.

Zion­ist Union MKs Re­vi­tal Swid and Yael Co­henParan backed up Schwartz, with Swid say­ing: “The bill would di­vorce Di­as­pora Jews and peo­ple deemed not Jewish enough by Or­tho­dox ex­trem­ists.” Co­hen-Paran called the bill “a nail in the cof­fin of Is­rael’s re­la­tion­ship with US Jews.”

Swid is mod­ern Or­tho­dox, while Co­hen-Paran is ac­tive in a Con­ser­va­tive syn­a­gogue.

Bayit Ye­hudi MK Beza­lel Smotrich de­fended the Di­as­pora clause, warn­ing that in its orig­i­nal for­mat, the bill could have en­abled the Supreme Court to say Is­rael would need to evac­u­ate Judea and Sa­maria if US Jews sup­ported such a move, due to the need to main­tain the con­nec­tion with Di­as­pora Jewry.

Smotrich and other MKs ex­pressed out­rage at a com­par­i­son Yesh Atid MK Yael Ger­man made be­tween the bill and the Holo­caust when she said: “The les­son of the Holo­caust is not to be silent in the face of in­jus­tice.”

The bill’s spon­sor, Likud MK Avi Dichter, re­sponded: “It’s a hor­ri­ble mis­take for any­one to say that, es­pe­cially an MK. If that was said in Poland, it would be called an­tisemitic.” •

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