Netanyahu slams deputy minister’s digs at US Jewry

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely
Updated 23 November 2017
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Netanyahu slams deputy minister’s digs at US Jewry

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday rapped his deputy foreign minister for “offensive” remarks in which she said US Jews were too “comfortable” to understand threats to Israel.
In an interview on Tel Aviv-based i24 TV news channel, Tzipi Hotovely of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party was quizzed Wednesday on the growing gulf between Israel and US Jewry, particularly youth.
“Maybe they’re too young to remember how it feels to be a Jewish person without a Jewish homeland, without a Jewish state,” she said in English, adding that US Jewry “never send their children to fight for their country.”
“Most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the marines, going to Afghanistan or to Iraq,” she said.
“Most of them are having quite a convenient life, they don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets.”
US-educated Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, described his deputy’s comments as offensive.
“There is no place for such attacks, and her remarks do not reflect the position of the State of Israel,” an English-language government statement quoted him as saying.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemns Tzipi Hotovely’s offensive remarks regarding the American Jewish community,” it added.
The left-leaning Haaretz newspaper challenged Hotovely on the facts, pointing out that the head of the US Air Force, Gen. David Lee Goldfein is Jewish, along with others “in the highest ranks.”
“Around 200,000 US Jews live in Israel, with many young people serving in its military,” it said.
The Israeli Army and local media frequently air interviews with “lone soldiers” from the US; young men and women who have left their families at home and come to Israel for the express purpose of volunteering for army service, including combat units.
Divisions between Israel and the US Jewish community have grown lately over Netanyahu’s refusal to implement a deal allowing women and men to pray together at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
In Israel, Jewish religious observance is governed by Orthodox practice, while in the US the more flexible reform and Conservative streams are prevalent.
Netanyahu’s government is also sensitive to the demands of ultra-Orthodox political parties which sit in his coalition and provide vital support for its slender parliamentary majority.
Under pressure from them, Netanyahu in June froze indefinitely a previous commitment to allow egalitarian prayer at the wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.
In accordance with strict Orthodox tradition, there are currently separate prayer sections for women and men at the wall, one of the last remnants of the Second Jewish Temple destroyed in 70 AD.


US envoy: Fight against Daesh in last Syria stronghold may end soon

Updated 30 min 43 sec ago
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US envoy: Fight against Daesh in last Syria stronghold may end soon

  • James Jeffrey: Washington keen to establish constitutional committee by end of the year

WASHINGTON: The administration of US President Donald Trump hopes that the US-backed fight against Daesh in its last foothold in northeastern Syria will end within months but American forces will remain to ensure the “enduring defeat” of the militant group, a top US diplomat said on Wednesday.

Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syrian engagement, said the US believes the way forward in Syria includes defeating Daesh, reinvigorating the political process and winding down the long-running civil war.

Toward that end, he said, the US hopes to see the formation of a committee before the end of the year to work on a new constitution for Syria as agreed by the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Turkey during their meeting in Istanbul in October.

He said US forces would remain in place after the coalition forces prevail over Daesh military units to ensure the group does not “regenerate itself.”

“The enduring defeat means not simply smashing the last of Daesh’s (Daesh) conventional military units holding terrain, but ensuring that Daesh doesn’t immediately come back in sleeper cells, come back as an insurgent movement,” Jeffrey said.

Washington also wants the withdrawal of Iranian military forces from Syria once the underlying causes of the conflict have been resolved, he said, noting that Iran’s continued military presence would represent a threat to US partners in the region.

Jeffrey said the final ground combat is along the Euphrates River and is being led by Syrian Democratic Forces assisted by US military personnel.

“The fight is continuing and we hope that it will be over in a few months and that will be the last of Daesh’s terrain that it holds in a quasi-conventional way,” he said.

Jeffrey said convening a committee under UN auspices to begin work on a new Syrian constitution was a “critical step” toward advancing the political process. 

He said the US would hold Russia to account to use its influence to bring the regime of its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, to the negotiating table.

“Our goal, which again was supported by Russia, France, Germany and Turkey and agreed in the Oct. 27 Istanbul communique, is to establish this constitutional committee by the end of the year,” he said.

Jeffrey said getting Iranian forces out of Syria, where they back Assad’s rule, was not a US military goal but should be an outcome of the process to end the civil war and the only way to achieve lasting peace.

He said newly reinstated US sanctions against Iran would encourage Tehran to scale back its presence in Syria.