Ronald Lauder in 2nd public rebuke asks ‘is Israel losing way’

Israeli government 'appears to be tarnishing sacred value of equality...turning back on Jewish heritage, Zionist ethos, Israeli spirit.'

JTA - Mordechai Sones ,

Ronald Lauder, head of WJC.
Ronald Lauder, head of WJC.

The World Jewish Congress President issued another rare rebuke to Israel today, panning the recently passed Nationality Law, calling out the country’s "Orthodox monopoly" and accusing the Netanyahu administration of damaging “the sense of equality and belonging of Israel’s Druze, Christian, and Muslim citizens.”

Writing in the New York Times, Lauder listed a number of recent incidents — including the arrest of a Conservative rabbi for conducting weddings outside of Rabbinate auspices and excluding same-gender couples from a newly passed surrogacy law — that he believes “are creating the impression that the democratic and egalitarian dimensions of the Jewish democratic state are being tested.”

“Israel is a miracle. The Jews of the diaspora look up to Israel, admire its astonishing achievements, and view it as their second home. However, today some wonder if the nation they cherish is losing its way,” he wrote.

Asserting that Zionism traditionally merged Jewish nationalism with universal humanism and the values of the enlightenment, he said that the Israeli government “appears to be tarnishing the sacred value of equality,” causing many supporters to “feel it is turning its back on Jewish heritage, the Zionist ethos, and the Israeli spirit.

“The issue at hand is first and foremost a moral one, but the new nation-state legislation may also have severe national and international repercussions. In Israel, it will heighten the sense of polarization and discord,” Lauder wrote. “Abroad, Israel may find itself associated with a broken values system and questionable friends. As a result, future leaders of the West may become hostile or indifferent to the Jewish State.”

Lauder also critiqued the Israelis for “unintentionally undermin[ing] the covenant between Judaism and enlightenment” and by doing so “crush[ing] the core of contemporary Jewish existence.”

The op-ed is his second this year openly critical of Israel. In another New York Times piece published in March, Lauder broke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in pressing hard for a "two-state solution" — a dangerous stance because the cosmetics billionaire has the ear of President Donald Trump, who has spoken repeatedly about unveiling a Middle East peace proposal.

Nationality Law proponents say that while Israel already had laws to protect individual freedoms and minorities, there were none specifically defining the Jewish identity and purpose of the State.