While it appears that Likud Party minister May Golan will remain a part of the current Israeli government, her controversial, apparently short-lived consideration for the role of consul general to New York had its supporters.
The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce wrote to JNS just before Shabbat that it applauded the reported selection of Golan, who has served as the head of the chamber’s Israel executive committee and women in the workforce division.
“May spearheaded our programs, helping build bridges between U.S. and Israel communities, and is no stranger to it,” Duvi Honig, the chamber’s founder and CEO, told JNS. He said Golan’s dealings with the chamber preceded her time in politics.
Golan, a Tel Aviv native, entered the public domain while campaigning for the deportation of African migrants from her south Tel Aviv neighborhood. She came under fire in 2012 when she said at a rally that if her claim that migrants were raping and killing Israelis was racist, then “I am proud of being a racist.”
Honig said it’s unfair to apply American standards of political debate rhetoric to Israel. “The mentality in Israel and in America are very different. In Israel, people speak very tough. In Hebrew, they say whatever they have to in order to get the message across, including exaggerating,” he said.
He added that almost all Israeli politicians deliver emotionally charged messages in ways that can sound politically incorrect.
The Zionist Organization of America also backed Golan’s appointment with ZOA national president Mort Klein calling Golan “an extraordinary Israeli patriot.”
Golan’s appointment is now off the table, according to Israeli media reports over the weekend. The reported change of heart from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed swift backlash from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden and from more liberal American Jewish leaders.
On Thursday, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel was critical of Golan’s prior comments, saying that “we would condemn such kind of rhetoric and believe that such kind of language is particularly damaging when it’s amplified in leadership positions.”
Shuffling the political deck
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, which represents nearly 850 Reform synagogues across North America, chastised Netanyahu on Twitter. “We need a thoughtful, diplomatic, morally credible new consul general in New York. May Golan is none of those,” he wrote.
Several former Israeli diplomats also came out against Golan taking up the post. While less prestigious than ambassadorial appointments to Washington or the United Nations, the New York consul general position, which covers a four-state area, is seen as particularly important given the density of the Jewish population in the region, which is the largest outside of Israel.
The original announcement of Golan’s appointment came about more as a result of internal Likud and coalition politicking than pure diplomatic considerations. Netanyahu, who previously announced that Golan would be given charge of the new ministry for advancing the status of women in society, put that appointment on hold last week as he looked to shuffle his party’s deck.
Netanyahu is reportedly trying to free up a ministerial role for Likud Knesset member Danny Danon, who is reportedly threatening to help derail government initiatives should he be kept on the sidelines. Shipping Golan, currently a minister without portfolio in Netanyahu’s office, to New York would have allowed for a reassignment of portfolios and Danon’s eventual appointment to a government position.
Ironically, two prior Netanyahu diplomatic appointments to New York that were highly controversial at the time paid dividends.
Danon, seen as a thorn in the side of Netanyahu, was cast off to the United Nations in 2015. The firebrand was not known for diplomatic skills and had previously called for the application of Israeli sovereignty over the bulk of Judea and Samaria.
His time at the United Nations, which lasted through 2020, was viewed as largely successful, with Danon notching several milestone achievements.
Meanwhile, Dani Dayan, a former settler leader, was appointed to the New York consul general position after Brazil rejected his placement there as ambassador. Dayan, an avowed right-winger, largely managed to win over New York’s progressive Jewish leaders during his time in the Big Apple from 2016 to 2020.
Since August 2021, Dayan has been serving as chairman of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem.