July 19, 2019

Princeton Hillel Apologizes for Canceling Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Speech

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Princeton Hillel’s Center for Jewish Life (CJL) issued an apology on Wednesday for cancelling their event hosting Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.

Eric Fingerhut, president of Hillel International, and Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of the CJL, issued their apology in a letter published in the Jerusalem Post, where they acknowledged that they made “a mistake” in canceling her event.

“We did not treat the Israeli deputy foreign minister with the respect that her office deserves, and postponed the event,” Fingerhut and Roth wrote.

They explained that the event wasn’t vetted by the CJL’s Israel Advisory Committee, but they admitted that it was wrong to cancel the event on that reason alone.

“We should have engaged a broader range of students in this program from the beginning, rather than right before the event and we should have made a stronger case within our campus community that the event should go forward as planned,” wrote Fingerhut and Roth. “This is an isolated incident – and Hillel International stands squarely behind the value of hearing from the Jewish state’s elected leaders.”

After listing Hillel’s various programs, Fingerhut and Roth concluded their letter by stating that they would “do better next time.”

“We are also proud to work for a movement that when, amid the pressures and realities of today’s campus life, we make a mistake, we acknowledge it, learn from it and strive to do better next time,” wrote Fingerhut and Roth. “That is another value we are proud to be modeling for our students.”

Despite Hillel’s cancelation, Hotovely spoke at Chabad of Princeton. Hotovely criticized Hillel for “infringing on the fundamental academic freedom of the students” and “silencing the voice of Israeli democracy.”

The cancellation came amid sharp condemnation from The Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP), which accused Hotovely of being a racist.

Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Speaks At Princeton Despite Hillel Cancellation

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Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was able to speak at Princeton University on Monday even though the campus Hillel canceled the speech in face of pressure.

Hotovely was initially scheduled to speak at Princeton Hillel’s Center for Jewish Life (CJL), but Hillel canceled the event after the Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP) lobbied for the cancellation.

“Hotovely’s work causes irreparable damage to the prospects of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” AJP wrote in a letter published in The Daily Princetonian. “She has stated her opposition to a Palestinian state and has made it her mission to expand settlement construction in the West Bank.”

The letter added that the CJL was hosting “a racist speaker” and silencing “progressive voices” in doing so.

Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of the CJL, explained in a letter to the Israeli consulate in New York their decision to cancel Hotovely.

“This program will be reviewed by our Israel Advisory Committee and we will refine our procedures to learn from this experience,” wrote Roth. “We look forward to continued robust and healthy debate around Israel in our community.”

Hotovely criticized the CJL’s decision in a letter to Roth.

“By canceling this lecture, you are infringing on the fundamental academic freedom of the students,” wrote Hotovely. “You are denying the basic freedom of students to hear different points of views, to question, challenge and think for themselves.”

Hotovely added later on in the letter that Roth was “silencing the voice of Israeli democracy” and stated that “a liberal dictatorship is ruling here.”

Fortunately for Hotovely, Princeton Chabad’s agreed to host her instead and she ended up speaking after all.

The head of Princeton’s Chabad, Rabbi Eitan Webb, introduced Hotovely and said, “We bend over backwards to give free speech to all.”

“Asking difficult questions is a part of listening,” said Webb.

Lawmaker makes controversial remark about Israeli flag at Temple Mount

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restated his government’s commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount after a government minister said it was her dream to see an Israeli flag fly on the site.

“I think it’s the center of Israeli sovereignty, the capital of Israel, the holiest place for the Jewish people,” Likud party lawmaker Tzipi Hotovely, also the deputy foreign minister, said in an interview aired Monday on the Knesset channel. “It’s my dream to see the Israeli flag flying on the Temple Mount.”

In response, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement on Monday night.

“The policy of the Government of Israel regarding the Temple Mount was expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his statement Saturday night, and nothing has changed,” the statement said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu made ​​it clear that he expects all members of the Government to act accordingly.”

Netanyahu in his statement on Saturday night said that “Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount. As we have said many times, Israel has no intention to divide the Temple Mount, and we completely reject any attempt to suggest otherwise.”

Hotovely issued a statement as well, saying: “My personal opinions are not the government’s policy, and I am certainly bound by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy as stated on Saturday evening in which he declared that there would be no change in the status quo at the Temple Mount.”

Opposition lawmakers called for her dismissal.

Hotovely has made public visits to the Temple Mount, including the day before her wedding, and opposes the creation of a Palestinian state.

Deadly Palestinian attacks on Jewish-Israelis have sharply increased in recent weeks amid tensions over the Temple Mount, which is holy to Jews and Muslims. Driving the tensions in part have been reports among the Palestinians that Israel is planning to alter the site, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Palestinian Authority President Abbas himself has made the charge, which Netanyahu has continued to vehemently deny.

At security confab, Israeli coalition members split on West Bank policy

When Israel’s coalition government formed last month, its constituent parties all but ruled out establishing a Palestinian state in the near future. But that doesn’t mean they agree on what to do instead.

Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Israel’s premier diplomatic and security policy gathering, senior Israeli government officials struck different and sometimes conflicting tones on what Israel’s policy should be toward the Palestinians. Even within the ruling Likud Party, officials advanced significantly different proposals for the future of the West Bank.

Some favor indefinite control of the territory. Others support negotiations and interim steps to prepare the ground for a future partition. Others want to hang tight while the wars roiling the Middle East play out.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on the eve of his re-election in March appeared to reverse his earlier support for Palestinian statehood, portrayed himself in his conference address on June 9 as having never shifted his position on the subject. He called on the Arab world to push the Palestinians toward negotiations and insisted that, in a final agreement, the Palestinian Authority would have to agree to a demilitarized state and recognize Israel as the Jewish state — a condition it has thus far refused.

“There might be an opening, because some of the Arab states silently agree with what I say,” Netanyahu said. “They might be in the position to influence the Palestinians to adopt a more conciliatory or positive approach. It will be hard, because all politics is theater, and international politics is theater, too, and everyone is cast in a role.”

Held annually at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a college founded in 1994, the Herzliya Conference brings together top officials from Israel’s government, diplomatic and defense arenas to discuss threats facing Israel and the Middle East. The conference, which this year took place June 7-9, offers a peek into the minds of Israel’s leading decision makers and occasionally provides a venue for Israeli leaders to make important announcements.

There were no such big developments this year, but the conference did reveal the extent of the disagreement within the Israeli government about the appropriate path in resolving Israel’s decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.

Likud Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was more pessimistic than his boss on Tuesday, declaring a “stable agreement” with the Palestinians unlikely in his lifetime. Although Ya’alon, who is 64, suggested measures to improve the Palestinian economy and local Palestinian government, he rejected any limitation on Israeli military operations in the West Bank, saying it could invite a takeover by Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza.

“There’s really something stable here,” Ya’alon said, referring to the West Bank. “Should we upset it out of wishful thinking? So we’re suggesting, within the framework of not ruling them, steps that make it possible for both sides to live in welfare, to live with respect, to live in security without illusions.”

Likud Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who would serve as Israel’s chief delegate to peace talks should they resume, struck a more optimistic tone in his Monday address, calling for a regional conference of Israel and the Arab states to confront shared regional threats, and encouraging the Palestinians to return to bilateral negotiations with Israel without preconditions.

“We believe the only way to achieve a solution is through peace, and peace can be achieved only through negotiations,” Shalom said. “If they are willing to do so, and to resume the negotiations, they will find Israel as a real and serious partner to peace.”

But Likud Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely dismissed the prospect of a peace deal entirely. Instead, she said mass Jewish immigration to Israel is the solution, as millions more Jews would eliminate any danger of Palestinians gaining a majority in Israel.

“This is the Zionist vision: It was always connected to the tradition, connected to the Bible, connected to Jewish history,” she said. “It won’t be achieved by dividing the land. That’s not what will bring Israel legitimacy. Israel needs to be right. Israel needs to continue in its Zionist direction.”

“Whom should we give the Golan to, to Al Nusra? To Al Qaeda?” he asked, referring to two terrorist groups active in Syria. “Why do they still not recognize the Golan? What’s the reasoning? If we had listened to the world, we would have given away the Golan, and ISIS would have been on the Sea of Galilee.”

Although they disagreed on the peace process, Israel’s officials advanced a unified front in opposing boycotts of Israel. Many alluded to recent statements by Stephane Richard, CEO of the French telecommunications giant Orange, suggesting he would pull his business out of Israel. They called on Israel to fight back against boycott efforts, marshaling the buying power of its supporters to boycott companies that boycott Israel.

“We have disagreements in many other issues — peace, security, economy,” Shalom said. “But we are very united about fighting back [against] the boycott. And I am sure that if we keep our unity, finally, we will prevail.”