Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has condemned the video appearance of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, head of the Socialist International, at Saturday’s protest in Tel Aviv against judicial reform.
“For the opponents of the reform, there are no red lines, including the attempt to harm [Israel’s] international status,” Cohen tweeted on April 29. “No foreign entity will decide for the public in Israel, and I am sure that Sanchez has no such intention. As someone who supports the reform, I have no doubt that it will strengthen democracy and balance the [government] branches.”
Sánchez said in his video message: “Dear Israeli friends, we as Socialist International have always fought for freedom, equality, justice and democracy. Yet, as many of you always know, these are values that we cannot take for granted and that we have to promote and defend on a daily basis.
“As such, now and always the Socialist International stands in solidarity with the people of Israel. Dear friends, you will always find us in the fight for democracy.”
The opposition has come in for criticism from the government and others for attempting to recruit foreign assistance for its effort to scuttle judicial reform.
On April 30, Cohen posted to social media an interview he gave to Channel 14, in which he said of the judicial reform protests, “I was very annoyed by two things that we need to pull out from the roots: refusals to serve [in the armed forces], and the second thing, when I see [people] speak against Israel in the world. And I’m saying that in my role as foreign minister. [Opposition leader] Yair Lapid, who is used to being the national inciter in the State of Israel, has turned into the global inciter outside the state.
“In the year and a half that we were in the opposition, it never occurred to me to speak against the State of Israel in the international arena, against the Israeli economy and against its resilience and, therefore, I say to everyone: protest, demonstrate, but don’t work against the state.”
Similarly, Am Echad, a U.S. group associated with the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel of America, sent an open letter to Lapid on April 11 expressing its “grave concern” over comments he made at a Jewish Federations meeting in New York.
“Rhetoric characterizing the government as ‘extremist’ and ‘undemocratic’ jeopardizes the relationship between Israel and world Jews,” its leaders said. “More importantly, when such statements move into mainstream media, they delegitimize Israel itself, and by extension pose real danger to the safety of Diaspora communities.”
As head of the opposition, the letter continued: “You are both entitled and required to critique the government. However, that does not extend to undermining the government outside the borders of Israel, calling on Diaspora Jews to counter the government, and driving a wedge between Israel and Jews around the world.”