Israel Political Brief December 4, 2011: Israeli lawmakers oppose Hillary Clinton’s criticisms of Israeli democracy at Saban Forum



Clinton’s criticisms of Israeli democracy raise hackles

Source: JTA, 12-4-11

Israeli lawmakers rejected U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s criticisms of Israeli democracy made during a closed forum in Washington.

Clinton reportedly rapped two bills making their way through the Knesset that would restrict funding to left-leaning human rights organizations, as well as the marginalization of women in Israel, citing the examples of religious Israeli soldiers leaving programs that feature women singing and women sitting in the back of the bus on some religious bus lines.

She reportedly made the comments, which were reported in the Israeli media, during a closed session Saturday of the Saban Forum attended by American and Israeli political figures.

“Israel is a living, breathing liberal democracy,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said at the start of Israel’s weekly Cabinet meeting. “The issue of the exclusion of women and separation is unacceptable and must be stopped, but to claim there is a threat on Israeli democracy is a big stretch.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan called on “elected officials around the world [to] examine their domestic problems first.” He added, “I hope that government steps will demonstrate our commitment to equality between men and women.”

Israel Political Brief December 4, 2011: White House Distances Itself from Belgium envoy Howard Gutman’s anti-Semitism remarks



White House raps Belgium envoy’s anti-Semitism remarks

Source: JTA, 12-4-11

The White House distanced itself from its ambassador to Belgium after the envoy said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the cause of Muslim anti-Semitism.

“We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and that there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel,” the White House said in a statement sent to Jewish leaders on Saturday night.

Howard Gutman, who is Jewish, said last week at a conference in Brussels on anti-Semitism organized by the European Jewish Union that “A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” He added that “an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.”

Gutman, an attorney, raised major funds for Obama’s 2008 elections campaign, after which he was appointed ambassador by the president.

On Sunday, Gutman said he regretted that his statements to the conference were “misinterpreted,” according to the European Jewish Press, citing the U.S. Embassy in Belgium.

“My personal history and the history of my family testify to the importance I attach to this subject and my unwavering commitment to fight anti-Semitism,” Gutman, the son of a Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor, reportedly said.

Israel Brief December 4, 2011: Gilad Shalit went on hunger strike during captivity



Report: Shalit went on hunger strike during captivity

Source: JTA, 12-4-11

Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit launched a hunger strike that put his life in danger shortly before his release.

The hunger strike is what led in part to Hamas agreeing to an exchange, as the terrorist group feared Shalit would die and it would lose its main bargaining chip, Yediot Achronot reported Sunday. The daily Israeli newspaper cited an intelligence report on Shalit.

According to the report, shrapnel fired during the kidnapping entered Shalit’s body, barely missing vital organs, and the wounds eventually healed.

The report also said that Iran and Hamas gave misleading information to Israeli intelligence on Shalit’s whereabouts, hoping that an Israeli rescue force would enter a booby-trapped house in northern Gaza.

Shalit reportedly was guarded by the same four Hamas members throughout his captivity.

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