Israel's Consul General in New York, Asaf Zamir, warned hundreds of US Jewish donors that he was deeply concerned about the current state of affairs in Israel, criticizing the judicial reform plans of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.
"I'm deeply concerned about the direction the country is going in right now. If you want to have the national home and to be everyone's home, it really must be democratic," Zamir said in an appearance on Thursday, according to Haaretz.
Zamir's remarks, first published by Barak Ravid of Walla!, were delivered to The Jewish Museum’s annual fundraising gala, which gathers more than 900 significant donors from New York’s corporate, social and cultural communities.
Zamir, who was appointed by then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, is the first sitting Israeli diplomat to deliver such warnings concerning the judicial reform.
"I've been in New York explaining Israel and representing Israel for the last 18 months. Sometimes it's things that I agree with, and sometimes it's things that I don't agree with. That's part of being a diplomat. It's part of being an Israeli — sometimes it's easier, sometimes it's harder. It's always very clear. That's not the point of the last few weeks," he was quoted as having said.
Other diplomats, including Israeli Ambassador to Canada Ronen Hoffman and Ambassador to France Yael German, have resigned over the past several months due to the new government's positions.
US Jewish leaders have voiced concerns about the effects the judicial reform could have on support for Israel.
A delegation of US Jewish federation leaders visited Israel this week and warned against the government’s planned overhaul of the judiciary.
The delegation came to Israel for 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday, and included representatives of more than 30 US Jewish communities. The delegation met with lawmakers from the coalition as well as the opposition.
Last month, the Jewish Federations of North America published an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Yair Lapid, calling on them to “fully embrace” President Isaac Herzog’s calls for negotiations between the coalition and the opposition on the judicial reform.
Meanwhile on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “consensus” is the best way forward regarding the judicial reform in Israel.
Asked if he saw judicial reform as moving away from democracy, Blinken reiterated that Israel is a democracy but added that attempting to implement “big changes” needs consensus.
“When I was there about a month ago – and this was already the subject of the day – I think the one thing that we know from our own experiences as democracies is that when you’re looking to make big changes, major reforms in your laws, your institutions, consensus is maybe the most important thing in making sure that you have something that’s not only accepted but that it also will last, is durable,” Blinken said.
“So the only, I think, wisdom – to the extent it’s wisdom that I can share – and I’ve spoken to this; more important, President Biden has spoken to this – is finding that consensus is the best path forward.”
On Thursday, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the US supports President Herzog’s compromise proposal.
“The genius of our democracy — and frankly Israel’s democracy — is that they’re built on strong institutions, that they include checks and balances that foster an independent judiciary,” he said, adding, “We support President Herzog’s ongoing effort to seek a solution that is consistent with those same democratic principles.”
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)