JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firmly rejected statements by government ministers and members of the Knesset in the wake of this week’s approval of an egalitarian section at the Western Wall.
“I reject the recent disparaging and divisive remarks by ministers and members of Knesset about Reform Jews,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
“Reform and Conservative Jews are part and parcel of the Jewish people and should be treated with respect,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu called the agreement to create the new non-Orthodox prayer section of the Western Wall “a historic compromise that ensures that the Western Wall will continue to be a source of unity and inspiration for the entire Jewish people.”
“This is the government’s policy. This is my policy,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu’s statement comes after some government officials attacked liberal streams of Judaism and associated movements, who signed on to the agreement approved on Sunday, including the Reform and Conservative movement, Women of the Wall and the Jewish Agency.
The most recent attack came Tuesday afternoon, when Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush, of the haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, was reported as saying that the Women of the Wall organization should be “thrown to the dogs,” and expressed satisfaction that the new egalitarian section will be in an “out-of-the-way corner.” He also said, the Times of Israel reported, “The Reform are responsible for the terrible intermarriage that we’ve been witnessing in the United States.”
Yariv Levin of the Likud party, who is secular, on Sunday during a discussion of the agreement approved by the Cabinet also attacked the Reform movement, saying: “Reform Jews in the United States are a dying world. Assimilation is taking place on a vast scale. They are not even tracking this properly in their communities. It is evidenced by the fact that a man who calls himself a Reform rabbi stands there with a priest and officiates at the wedding of the daughter of Hillary Clinton and no one condemns it, thereby legitimizing it.”
Following the vote, Moshe Gafni, a haredi Orthodox lawmaker who chairs the Israeli Knesset’s powerful Finance Committee, said he would not recognize the decision and called Reform Jews “a group of clowns who stab the holy Torah.”