Jewish Agency chief: Reform criticism of Trump’s Jerusalem move was ‘terrible’
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Jewish Agency chief: Reform criticism of Trump’s Jerusalem move was ‘terrible’

'Everything that comes out of Trump is bad, from their perspective,' Natan Sharansky says in radio interview chastising liberal US movement

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky attends a meeting in the Knesset of the lobby for strengthening ties with the Jewish world, June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky attends a meeting in the Knesset of the lobby for strengthening ties with the Jewish world, June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky on Tuesday lambasted the Reform movement’s critical response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week.

“The Reform response to the recognition of Jerusalem was terrible,” Sharansky, an influential backer of the Reform movement’s position on the Western Wall and other matters, said in a Hebrew-language radio interview.

“Everything that comes out of Trump is bad, from their perspective. When the leader of a superpower recognizes Jerusalem, first you have to welcome it, then offer disagreement. Here it was the opposite,” he told Israel Radio.

After last Wednesday’s recognition by Trump, the head of the Reform movement’s synagogue umbrella body, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, wrote that Trump’s declaration “affirms what the Reform Jewish movement has long held: that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. 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 also said that the White House should not undermine efforts toward making peace between Israel and the Palestinians by “making unilateral decisions that are all but certain to exacerbate the conflict.”

The statement has already come under criticism from Israeli officials. Last week, Israel’s consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, called Jacobs’s statement “deeply frustrating and disappointing because Jerusalem is the uniting force of the Jewish people.”

Illustrative: Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs participating in a prayer service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, July 4, 2016. (Courtesy of the URJ)

Other US Jewish organizations lauded Trump’s decision last week.

The Republican Jewish Coalition praised the US president for his announcement of a “significant change in US policy” by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing a plan to begin the process of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Malcolm Hoenlein, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Trump was doing “the right thing.”

“When President Trump visited the Western Wall and made a declaration recognizing Jerusalem as holy to the Jews after the denunciation of UNESCO, there was not even one warm-up, not one demonstration, because when you do the right thing, you do not have to ask questions, you just do it,” Hoenlein said Wednesday in an address at the launching of the Lobby for the Protection of the Mount of Olives in the Knesset.

In an address last Wednesday from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

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