Israel expressed dissatisfaction and more than a little anger at the “off the record” remarks made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the state of Israel’s democracy and its future.
Clinton’s Words Leaked to Israeli Press
Clinton was speaking behind closed doors at the Saban Forum in Washington DC on Saturday when she expressed her opinions about some recent political issues which have arisen within the confines of the internal dynamics of the state of Israel. Her words made headlines in Israel, which stated them without siting their source.
Anti-Democratic Bills Worry Clinton
One of Israel’s bestselling newspapers, Yediot Aharonot, wrote that Clinton was concerned about a number of “anti-democratic” bills which have recently been proposed by some of the right-wing members of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
One of the laws which have sparked the most criticism is one which would limit foreign funding for specific NGOs in Israel. The left-wing in Israel as well as certain foreign bodies say that these laws target groups which are against Israel’s presence in the disputed territories and that specifically report on violations of Palestinian human rights without also examining and criticizing the violation of Jewish human rights by the Palestinians.
Shocked at Gender Issues
Clinton expressed “shock” upon hearing that there are some buses in Jerusalem which are segregated according to gender; she was also surprised to hear that some religious male Israeli soldiers will not attend events in which women sing.
The backlash to Clinton’s comments was swift. In Jerusalem members of Netanyahu’s cabinet were holding their weekly meeting which gave them the opportunity to respond to Clinton, accusing her of hyperbole.
The Israel media reported that Finance Minister Yuval Steinmetz called Clinton’s words “totally exaggerated.”
“Israel is a living, breathing liberal democracy,” Steinmetz said.
Steinmetz readily admitted that gender separation in Israel can at times be a problem in Israel, “but to claim there is a threat on Israeli democracy is a big stretch.”