After World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder claimed that Israel’s policies are causing young Jewish Americans to distance themselves from Israel, Israeli Education and Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett said that assimilation in America predates the Six Day War: “Assimilation in America is not a result of Israeli policies. Assimilation is the result of prosperity in America.”
Bennett Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israeli Education and Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett responded on Monday evening to World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder’s New York Times op-ed that was highly critical of the Israeli government and its policies.
During his speech at the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry’s 6th Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, Bennett addressed Lauder, who was in the audience, saying: “Ron, I read your piece in The New York Times – not a great piece.” Bennett then told the WJC president that he firmly disagrees with op-ed’s tone, which implied that the current Israeli government’s policies are the cause of the assimilation of Jewish Americans in recent years.
“Assimilation in America is not a result of Israeli policies. Assimilation is the result of prosperity in America, and it predates the Six Day War, it predates the intifada, and it is an ongoing trend that we have to fight back,” Bennett said.
Lauder wrote in his op-ed that Israel is facing two threats that “could endanger its very existence.” The first is the demise of a two-state solution. He explained that while he is a Likud supporter and a Republican, not even he can ignore the fact that almost half of the millions of people who live in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are Palestinian.
“If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy,” he wrote. “To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution.”
The “grave” second threat is the Orthodox control over various issues in Israel, including marriage and prayer at the Western Wall, and the “growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora.” According to Lauder, many of the non-Orthodox Jews living outside of Israel “have come to feel, particularly over the last few years, that the nation that they have supported politically, financially and spiritually is turning its back on them.”
“By submitting to the pressures exerted by a minority in Israel, the Jewish state is alienating a large segment of the Jewish people,” Lauder wrote. “The crisis is especially pronounced among the younger generation, which is predominantly secular.”
“An increasing number of Jewish millennials, particularly in the United States, are distancing themselves from Israel because its policies contradict their values,” he added.
“We are at a crossroads,” Lauder wrote at the end of his op-ed. “The choices that Israel makes in the coming years will determine the destiny of our one and only Jewish state — and the continued unity of our cherished people.”