The Jewish Agency chairman called comments by Reform leader Rick Jacobs “terrible,” and characterized the movement as persistently and instinctively critical of Trump.
By: Jack Ben-David, World Israel News
The Jewish Agency’s chairman, Natan Sharansky, criticized the Jewish Reform movement on Tuesday following objections vocalized by the liberal stream’s leader to President Donald Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
“The Reform response to the recognition of Jerusalem was terrible,” said Sharansky in an interview with Israel Radio, adding that the movement persistently slams the US president.
“Everything said by Trump is bad, from their point of view,” Sharansky said.
“When the leader of a superpower recognizes Jerusalem, first you have to welcome it, then offer disagreement. This time it was the opposite,” he added in reference to Reform leader Rick Jacob’s hostility to Trump’s announcement that he had instructed the US State Department to begin making plans for moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Following Trump’s announcement, Jacobs said that his movement affirms a “long-held” view that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, but decried the decision to move the embassy and what he implied was an inopportune time.
“Yet while we share the President’s belief that the US Embassy should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we cannot support his decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process,” Jacobs said after the announcement, adding that “unilateral decisions are all but certain to exacerbate the conflict.”
Sharansky’s criticism of the Reform movement marks a departure from the support he lent at the height of the Kotel crisis recently in which an agreement was temporarily postponed by the Israeli government to permit egalitarian prayer services near the Western Wall.
At the time, Sharansky upbraided the government for “weakening relations” with liberal American Jewry.
But Jacobs’ criticism of Trump has already attracted censure from other senior Israeli officials, including Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who drew parallels between Jacobs and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“The next time the President of the Reform congregations in the US, Rick Jacobs, preaches to us about caring a lot about the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and everyone readily laps up his words, remember that the coalition against the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was led by Rick Jacobs and the Turkish President Erdogan,” Deri wrote on Twitter.
However, Jacobs was not alone in his opprobrium for Trump’s move, with his comments being echoed by a number of left-wing Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which similarly asserted that it supported Trump’s decision, but added that the White House “has neglected efforts to meaningfully support peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”
In the same vein, the ultra-left J Street, joined the “terrible” chorus among Jewish liberal denominations in denouncing Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.
“Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem,” J Street said in a statement.
Trump’s decision to fulfill his campaign pledge was welcomed in the Israeli government, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that Trump’s declaration was akin in historical significance to the 1917 Balfour Declaration––which committed the UK to establish a Jewish homeland in mandatory Palestine––to Israel’s independence in 1948, and the unification of Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War.