Volunteer envoy Noa Tishby may be dropped for her critiques

Israel’s envoy in NY summoned to Jerusalem over criticism of judicial overhaul

Asaf Zamir ordered to fly home to explain his comments at a gala dinner expressing ‘deep concern’ over country’s direction and saying Jewish homeland must remain democratic

Israeli Consul General to New York Asaf Zamir speaks at a New York City event with the Jewish Federations of North America on September 27, 2021. (Shahar Azran)
Israeli Consul General to New York Asaf Zamir speaks at a New York City event with the Jewish Federations of North America on September 27, 2021. (Shahar Azran)

Israel’s Consul General in New York Asaf Zamir has been summoned to Jerusalem to clarify recent comments he made expressing his displeasure at the proposed judicial overhaul in Israel, a senior Foreign Ministry official told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

In a Thursday speech at a fundraising event, Zamir expressed his “deep concern” over the direction in which the country is headed, in highly rare criticism of government policy from a sitting diplomat and a further indication of the extent of the discomfort with the hardline coalition’s effort to radically curb the power of the High Court of Justice.

“I’m deeply concerned [about] the direction the country is going in right now,” Zamir said in remarks at the ANU Museum — Museum of the Jewish People’s annual gala dinner. “If you want to have a national home and you want it to be everyone’s home, it really must be democratic.”

A clip of Zamir’s speech at the private event was first published by the Walla news site on Friday.

Zamir has been serving in New York since August 2021 after being appointed to the position by then-foreign minister Yair Lapid. Zamir had spent almost a decade in politics at that point, mostly as deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, but he joined Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party in 2019 and went on to serve as tourism minister during a short-lived power-sharing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He resigned as minister in 2020 in protest of Netanyahu’s conduct and the coalition fell apart shortly thereafter, leading to another short-lived unity government led by Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and Lapid.

Zamir has stayed on in New York since that government fell last June, as other diplomats appointed by Lapid — Yael German in France and Ronen Hoffman in Canada — resigned in protest of the Netanyahu coalition’s policies.

The New York consul general’s comments Thursday indicated Zamir may be heading in that direction.

Additional Lapid political appointees abroad include Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog, Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek, Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor and Ambassador to Angola Shimon Solomon. None of them has offered any public indication that they plan to resign. They were each given three-year contracts, and it is rare for a new government to recall an envoy appointed by a previous government.

Also on Sunday, the Ynet news site reported that the Foreign Ministry was considering ending its ties with former Israeli actress Noa Tishby, who Lapid appointed to a volunteer post as the country’s first-ever special envoy to combat antisemitism and Israel delegitimization.

Tishby penned an op-ed earlier this month in Ynet in which she criticized the judicial overhaul, and reiterated the message in a Friday interview on the HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

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