Lapid: Netanyahu is ‘dangerously’ aligning Israel with conservative Republicans

Opposition MK accuses prime minister of furthering partisan divide by not inviting Democrats to US embassy opening

Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting in the Israeli parliament on April 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting in the Israeli parliament on April 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “dangerously” aligning his government with conservative, evangelical factions of the Republican Party, and furthering the divide with Democrats in the wake of the US embassy inauguration in Jerusalem that was criticized as being a partisan event.

“The fact that the government completely identifies with the conservative, evangelical faction of the Republican Party is dangerous,” Lapid told Walla news in an interview Thursday.

He said that if there were a Democratic US president and Congress in 2020, it would spell a “serious problem” for Israel if Netanyahu were to remain in power.

Lapid also warned that Netanyahu’s alignment with conservative Republicans was further straining Israel’s relationship with American Jews: “80 percent of them are Democrats,” he said.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Lapid said Jewish Democratic lawmaker Ted Deutch told him he was blackballed from attending the US embassy inauguration in Jerusalem on Monday.

“He told me that he asked to join the delegation but never got a response,” Lapid said. “There’s no way the government of Israel didn’t notice this. Its the job of the Prime Minister’s office to look at the list and say: we are non-partisan and are not just attached to Republicans.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and US President Donald Trump, right, speak at Ben Gurion International Airport prior to the latter’s departure from Israel on May 23, 2017. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

“The identification with the conservative wing of the Republican Party happened because of the friendship with Trump, but it’s short-sighted and unprofessional, and is connected to the fact that there is no foreign ministry and no one is doing the work,” Lapid said, criticizing Netanyahu’s role as Foreign Minister.

Earlier this week, the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC hosted its annual event celebrating the establishment of the State of Israel and the Trump administration’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, with no Democrats in attendance.

An embassy spokesman said all members of Congress were invited, as they are every year. An embassy official said: “Many staffers and dignitaries who are Democrats came to celebrate with us.”

“I can only imagine that they would want members of Congress who would be completely supportive of the embassy move and uncritical of the violence taking place in Gaza,” said one Jewish Democratic House member who said no invitation to the event was received.

The offices of Deutch — and fellow Jewish lawmaker Nita Lowey — said they were invited but that the event fell on a “district day” and they were not in Washington to attend the affair.

Monday night’s soiree in Washington was considered more special than in years past: Not only was it a commemoration of Israel’s 70th birthday, it also coincided with the culmination of US President Donald Trump’s December decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there.

Rep. Ted Deutch on the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images via JTA)

It also came amid violent protests in the Gaza Strip on Monday, in which 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 were injured, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

Hamas has said 50 of the dead were members of the terror group, while Islamic Jihad claimed 3 more.

Much of the international community has decried the deaths and accused Israel of using excessive force.

Most Democrats on Capitol Hill opposed Trump’s Jerusalem decision, arguing that while Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, formal recognition and the relocation of the embassy should come in the context of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

Not a single currently serving Democratic member of Congress attended the Jerusalem ceremony, either.

The pro-Israel Jewish House member who was not invited to the reception in Washington suggested the move was enabling aspects of Netanyahu’s agenda that are anathema to the US Jewish community, which largely leans left politically.

“It seems like Netanyahu only cares about appealing to right-wing Christians and the most conservative Jews in America,” the lawmaker said. “He shows no interest in connecting with the majority of American Jews who are liberal and progressive. Trump and [Jared] Kushner and Ambassador [David] Friedman have given Netanyahu license to take a very hard turn to the right. And that just drives a deeper wedge between Netanyahu and liberal American Jews.”

In September 2017, an American Jewish Committee poll found that just 16 percent of American Jews supported Trump’s call to move the US embassy to Jerusalem immediately.

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