Appointment of far-right Likud MK as NY consul likely off the table — reports

Government officials cited by Hebrew media say PM’s office understands move is not feasible following backlash from US Jewish leaders, Biden administration

MK May Golan during a discussion and a vote on the "Citizenship Law" at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK May Golan during a discussion and a vote on the "Citizenship Law" at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The potential appointment of far-right Likud lawmaker May Golan as Israel’s consul general in New York is likely now off the table, according to reports in the Hebrew media on Saturday and Sunday, following backlash from liberal Jewish leaders in the US and the Biden administration over her past incendiary rhetoric.

Unnamed senior government officials cited in Hebrew media reports said the Prime Minister’s Office had come to understand that the appointment was not suitable and that Golan was not inclined to accept the position in any case.

Golan’s nomination by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week stirred concern among Israeli and US leaders that the lawmaker will not be welcomed by mainstream Jewish groups in New York due to past incendiary comments.

Golan, a Tel Aviv native, first made a name for herself campaigning for the expulsion of African asylum-seekers, an issue she has continued to champion despite accusations of racism. In 2012, she sarcastically told a rally in South Tel Aviv that if her claim that migrants were raping and killing Israelis was racist, then “I am proud of being a racist.”

In 2013, Golan ran on the list of the Otzma L’Yisrael party, a precursor to the Otzma Yehudit party that failed to make it into the Knesset. She more recently joined the Likud party, serving briefly in the Knesset in 2019 before re-entering parliament in 2020 and remaining ever since.

Throughout, she has promoted the image of herself as a far-right rabble-rouser who refuses to be muzzled. In 2021, she told the Israel Hayom daily that she did not plan to moderate her speech as a lawmaker, labeling herself “the mother of politically incorrect.”

On Thursday, a US State Department spokesperson criticized past statements from Golan on asylum seekers during a press briefing, without directly censuring her expected appointment.

“We would condemn such kind of rhetoric and believe that such kind of language is particularly damaging when it’s amplified in leadership positions,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said.

Though less influential than Israel’s missions to Washington or the United Nations, the New York consulate is still considered among the most important postings, responsible for managing ties over a four-state geographic area that is home to the largest Jewish community in the world outside Israel.

Channel 12 said Friday that Golan’s potential appointment has also faced pushback from within the Foreign Ministry, with several diplomats expressing their frustration over the selection of an “unworthy” candidate. Accordingly, the network said that a final decision on the matter has not yet been made.

Golan had said Thursday she would work with all Jewish organizations as Israel’s consul general in New York, if she takes up an offer to serve in the high-profile diplomatic post.

Golan had been promised a ministerial-level position in charge of advancing the status of women in society, but on Wednesday, a scheduled Knesset vote to confirm her appointment to the cabinet was dropped from the agenda at the last minute.

According to several reports in Hebrew-language media, the vote was nixed because Netanyahu was pressuring Golan to forgo the ministerial position in order to instead become consul general in New York.

Netanyahu’s office confirmed on Thursday that he has offered her the consul general post, citing “her excellent explanatory abilities in English.”

Asaf Zamir, a former MK for the centrist Blue and White party who was appointed to the role by the previous government, resigned from the post last month in protest of the ruling coalition’s judicial overhaul effort.

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