Sacked Israeli consul in NY claims Israel is a ‘protectorate’ of the US

After his words aroused a furor, Asaf Zamir apologized, calling his wording “unsuccessful.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s recently fired New York Consul General on Saturday called Israel a “U.S. protectorate,” arousing a storm of protest that led to his backtracking the comment hours later.

In an interview on Channel 12, former Tourism Minister and ex-Israeli consul general in New York Asaf Zamir said, “The thing that is most important for me to say is that this is a real emergency alert, we are losing the US. And we are a protectorate of the US, and in many ways we are dependent on this relationship.”

Zamir was referring to the controversial judicial reforms that the government wants to pass, an issue on which the Biden administration has openly sided with Israel’s opposition in calling for the coalition to “hit the brakes,” in the words of American ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.

Washington has also made it clear that it is not even thinking right now to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. The Opposition takes this as a clear sign of the administration’s displeasure over the planned reforms, which its critics claim will turn Israel into a dictatorship. Netanyahu has reiterated several times that the judicial overhaul is intended to strengthen, rather than weaken, Israel’s democracy.

The backlash to Zamir’s statement was quick and fierce.

MK Boaz Bismuth (Likud) tweeted, for example, “Sir, it would seem you’re confused, you represented Israel in New York, not New York in Israel. Welcome back.”

Zamir backtracked just hours later, tweeting that his remark had been “An unsuccessful statement” that he wanted to “clarify.”

“Israel is not a ‘protectorate’ of the US,” he explained, “but Israel exists, grows stronger, and prospers thanks to its patronage and support – in UN vetoes, grants, securities, weapons, in a strong Jewish community and endless ways.”

“The crisis with the United States and the breaking of the principle of shared values is even more serious than some statement of the former consul,” he ended.

Zamir, who previously served in the Knesset as part of the Blue and White party, had announced on Twitter last Sunday, “I quit,” adding that he was resigning his position so that he could “fight for Israel’s future,” as he opposed the government’s planned judicial reforms. Zamir had been appointed by Yair Lapid, now head of the Opposition, when he served as foreign minister in 2021.

He had already been summoned to Jerusalem the week before for speaking against the reforms at a fundraising event in New York.

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According to Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, Zamir had not sent in official notice, so on Thursday he ordered the consul’s immediate termination.

“Asaf Zamir announced his resignation on Twitter, but wanted to continue in the position for an unspecified time,” Cohen tweeted. “I decided to fire him immediately,” because “a diplomat who takes a political side cannot represent the State of Israel for even one day. Good luck in the future.”