JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A top Israeli diplomat was rebuked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday for suggesting that American Jews have a poor commitment to service in the U.S. military.
Asked in an English-language television interview about criticism of Israeli policies by some U.S. Jews, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely questioned whether “people that never send their children to fight for their country” could understand the “complexity” of the Middle east.
“Most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan or to Iraq,” she said on i24 TV news on Wednesday.
“They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis,” said Hotovely, a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party.
While Israel has often quarrelled with American Jews over their right to advise it from afar, Hotovely’s remarks went further by appearing to insinuate they are not fully committed to their native country, a notion U.S. Jewish organizations have long fought against in their battle against anti-Semitism.
In a statement, Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s foreign minister, denounced Hotovely’s comments as “hurtful”.
“There is no place for such a harangue and her remarks do not reflect the State of Israel’s position,” the statement said.
According to a 2009 survey published by the congressionally-mandated Military Leadership Diversity Commission, an estimated 1.09 percent of the members of the U.S. armed forces are Jewish. The Pew Research Center estimated in 2013 that Jews make up about 2 percent of the U.S. adult population.
The website of the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington lists more than 50 Jewish service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff