Netanyahu to skip gathering of North American Jewish groups

Possibly due to clashes with Liberal American Jews over Israeli policies, Netanyahu will not attend the North American Jewish Federations’ annual assembly.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not attend the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly in Los Angeles next month, Federation officials confirmed Monday. Dani Wassner, managing director of media and government  relations of the Federations’ Israel office, said that Netanyahu’s office cited the long flight to Los Angeles as the prime minister’s explanation for giving this year’s gathering a miss for the first time since 2011.

Wassner also rejected a suggestion made by some sources close to the organization that the prime minister had been disinvited due to Netanyahu’s ongoing clash with American Jews over synagogue-and-state issues in Israel. “The prime minister is always invited,” said Wassner.

However, the fact remains that Netanyahu is deeply unpopular with liberal American Jewish groups and may have pulled out of the event in order to avoid a likely chorus of boos. His recent backtrack on an agreement with Reform and Conservative groups to expand an egalitarian prayer adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza drew a furious response from diaspora leaders, as did the government’s decision to advance a controversial conversion bill.

Netanyahu oversaw the Western Wall deal in January, 2016, but has refused to implement the deal due to coalition pressure from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas parties.

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Netanyahu will be replaced by President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, who will deliver his first major address in the United States. Jewish Federations of North America officials said they are negotiating with Netanyahu’s office for the prime minister to address the gathering via video hookup.

By: Mara Vigevani/TPS