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Orthodox Jewish group: ‘Lapid delegitimizing not just Israeli government, but Israel itself’

“When you go back to Israel, we in the Diaspora will face the potential consequences of even more antisemitism, powered by your words,” says the group Am Echad.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks at a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem against the judicial reform program, Feb. 13, 2023. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks at a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem against the judicial reform program, Feb. 13, 2023. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.

Am Echad, a U.S. group associated with the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel of America, sent an open letter to Israeli opposition leader and Yesh Atid Party chairman Yair Lapid on April 11 expressing their “grave concern” over comments he made at a recent Jewish Federations meeting in New York.

Shlomo Werdiger and Irving Lebovics, co-chairmen of Am Echad, wrote that they saw the “comments as sowing discord and delegitimizing not just the current Israeli government, but Israel itself in the eyes of the world, both Jewish and not.”

“Rhetoric characterizing the government as ‘extremist’ and ‘undemocratic’ jeopardizes the relationship between Israel and world Jews,” they 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.”

“In your role as the Head of the Opposition, 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,” they added.

“When you go back to Israel, we in the Diaspora will face the potential consequences of even more antisemitism, powered by your words. Israel is precious to every single one of us. We are proud of its vibrant democracy and amazing growth. We ask you that going forward you refrain from damaging, inflammatory rhetoric against Israel and its government during meetings in the Diaspora,” they concluded.

Lapid met with American Jewish leaders in New York on Monday as part of a United States trip intended to repair ties amid a divisive debate on judicial reform back home.

The meeting was hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America at UJA-Federation of New York’s headquarters in Manhattan and included senior heads of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations.

Lapid has been a vocal opponent of the judicial reform legislation proposed by the coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who succeeded Lapid as prime minister of Israel late last year. He has encouraged the mass demonstrations and a general strike that paralyzed the country and resulted in Netanyahu suspending the legislative push until the parliamentary summer session opens on April 30.

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