NetanyahuGPO photo

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday sought to calm angry US Jews after Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay castigated reform Jews for “losing their way” as Jews, AFP reported.

"Israel is a home for all Jews," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “The government of Israel serves all Israeli citizens -- secular and religious -- regardless of which stream they come from," he said, pledging to convene roundtable discussions between the different streams of Judaism and Israeli officials.”

There were public statements of outrage from rabbis and Jewish community leader in the United States after minister David Azoulay, of the Shas party, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he "couldn't say" Reform Jews were Jews. "These are Jews that have lost their way," he added.

The head of the Union for Reform Judaism in the US, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, slammed his "ignorant and myopic views," the report quoted him as saying.

Abraham Foxman, national director of major US Jewish rights group the Anti-Defamation League, said Azoulay's comments which come at a time of "growing tensions with the non-Orthodox Jewish diaspora... contribute to an atmosphere of exclusion and growing mistrust."

Netanyahu's bid to calm the row was seen as also key to improving ties with US Jewry, crucial in maintaining the support which the Jewish state needs from its American ally. "There is currently a serious crisis between US Jewry and Israel," said Etan Gilboa, an expert on Israel-US relations at Bar Ilan university, near Tel Aviv. "Israel is going with the Republicans, while most (US) Jews still identify with the Democrats," he told AFP.

"What (Netanyahu) is trying to do is reduce the flames, but it will take much more serious work, we're losing US Jewry," he warned."And without US Jewry there is no pro-Israel lobby and no pro-Israel policy."