Israel’s NY envoy quits in protest of overhaul ‘to join fight for Israel’s future’
Asaf Zamir, who was summoned to Jerusalem last week for comments against coalition, pens open letter saying effort to curb judiciary ‘undermines democratic system’s foundation’
NEW YORK — Israel’s Consul General in New York Asaf Zamir announced his resignation on Sunday, saying he could no longer represent the government due to its judicial overhaul effort and that he was returning to Israel to join the protests against it.
“I believe it is now time for me to take action and to join the fight for Israel’s future alongside fellow citizens, as we work together to build a better, more just and more equal Israel,” Zamir said in an open letter he posted on social media.
Zamir was summoned back to Jerusalem last week after he voiced somewhat vague criticism of the legislative package aimed at radically curbing the High Court of Justice’s power at a fundraising dinner in New York.
“I’m deeply concerned [about] the direction the country is going in right now,” said Zamir, who was appointed by then-Foreign Minister and current opposition chairman Yair Lapid and has already once resigned from a Netanyahu government in protest. “If you want to have a national home and you want it to be everyone’s home, it really must be democratic.”
The development was already an indication that Zamir’s days in the US were numbered. Two other Lapid ambassadorial appointees have already stepped down from their posts.
“The political situation in Israel has reached a critical point, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility and moral obligation to stand up for what is right and fight for the democratic values that I hold dear,” Zamir wrote in the open letter published Sunday.
The past 18 months as Israel’s Consul General in New York were fulfilling and rewarding, but following today’s developments, it is now time for me to join the fight for Israel's future to ensure it remains a beacon of democracy and freedom in the world. Here is the letter I sent: pic.twitter.com/Sfz8y3ALLv
— Asaf Zamir (@AmbAsafZamir) March 26, 2023
He indicated that the “dangerous” Sunday decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was what finally convinced him that he “can no longer continue representing the government.”
Gallant on Saturday gave a primetime address in which he called on the government to temporarily halt the legislative overhaul, lamenting that it had sparked a societal rift so large that it had “penetrat[ed] the IDF and security agencies.”
“I’ve become increasingly concerned with the policies of the new government and in particular, the judicial reform it is leading,” Zamir wrote. “I believe that this reform undermines the very foundation of our democratic system and threatens the rule of law in our country.”
“This is a pivotal moment in Israel’s history, and while my time at the consulate has been fulfilling and rewarding, I believe it is now time for me to take action and to join the fight for Israel’s future alongside fellow citizens, as we work together to build a better, more just and more equal Israel.”
Protesters greet Asaf Zamir after he quits his position as Israeli consul in New York at a rally outside the consulate pic.twitter.com/YgKiVDkm9n
— Luke Tress (@luketress) March 26, 2023
After announcing his resignation, Zamir was welcomed by dozens of protesters outside the consulate’s office in Manhattan.
Israeli ex-pat protest groups in the area called the impromptu demonstration after Zamir quit his position and came to the event carrying signs that said “Thank you Asaf,” “Asaf, we are with you,” and “save Israel.”
The group changed “shame” at the mention of Netanyahu’s name and chanted, “democracy or rebellion.”
“What happened today with the firing of the defense minister was the straw that broke a lot of people’s backs and made a lot of people understand that our country is in real danger,” Zamir told the crowd. “It’s far beyond right and left, it’s about the shared future of all of us in the State of Israel, it’s our societal strength, it’s our national security, and our ability to see a future in a place where we will want to raise our children.”
The demonstration wrapped up with Zamir and the protesters singing Israel’s national anthem.