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Dan Shapiro, ahead of Sunday ToI interview: Western Wall move ‘damages Israel-US relations’

Ex-US ambassador, speaking ahead of July 2 Times of Israel event in Jerusalem, warns dispute with Diaspora Jews has strategic implications

US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, December 9, 2014. (Matty Stern/US Embassy)
US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, December 9, 2014. (Matty Stern/US Embassy)

The government’s decision to halt the establishment of an official pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall could ultimately damage Israel’s close strategic relations with the United States, former US ambassador Dan Shapiro warned.

Shapiro, who served as ambassador under Barack Obama from 2011 until January, said the strong bond between American Jews and Israel underpins the ties between Israel and its closest ally. Anything that weakens the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jews “is not advantageous to Israel and not advantageous to bilateral relations,” Shapiro told Army Radio on Monday. The ambassador was speaking ahead of his public interview in English with The Times of Israel’s David Horovitz in Jerusalem on Sunday, July 2.

“I think a decision like this damages bilateral relations between Israel and the United States,” Shapiro said. “It would have been wiser to display more respect for American Jews.”

Discarding the diplomatic discipline that prevented him from becoming involved in controversial issues while he was ambassador, Shapiro said he was deeply concerned about the impact of the government’s decision on Jewish supporters of Israel abroad.

“I’m speaking as a Jewish father of three girls who love to pray at the Kotel in our manner, a father who taught them to read the entire weekly portion,” he said. “This is a difficult day for Jews in the United States who love Israel.”

Julie Fisher, Dan Shapiro and their daughters celebrate the Chicago Cubs' Wold Series win, November 2016. (Courtesy)
Julie Fisher, Dan Shapiro and their daughters celebrate the Chicago Cubs’ Wold Series win, November 2016. (Courtesy)

“It’s a challenge to preserve the link between the younger generation of American Jews and Israel,” he said. “I work day and night to help preserve and strengthen that connection. At the INSS [think tank] where I’m now a fellow we are researching the impact of relations between Israel and American Jewry on Israel’s national security.”

“The compromise was very elegant,” he said, referring to the now-frozen deal hammered out over five years of talks moderated by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and approved by the government last year. “Each side gained something, each side gave up something. But it didn’t interfere at all with the traditional prayer at the Western Wall, in the men’s section or the women’s section. It added a new section – the Israel section – for egalitarian prayer where the Reform movement, the Conservative movement and the Women of the Wall, among others, would run the place.”

“I am at a loss to understand why this compromise wasn’t good enough,” Shapiro said. “I think it’s hurtful to many American Jews, who today may feel that the State of Israel which they love and support, doesn’t respect their Judaism.”

Want to hear more? Come and see Dan Shapiro interviewed live by David Horovitz on Sunday, July 2 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. Horovitz will ask Shapiro for his unique perspective on the challenges facing Israel and America in the Middle East, the future of Israel-US relations, and much, much more.

Sunday, July 2: DAN SHAPIRO
Interviewed by David Horovitz
8:00 p.m. Jerusalem Cinematheque
Tickets NIS 50 HERE
(NIS 60 at door, cash only)
In association with Nefesh B’Nefesh

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