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South Florida’s Jewish community reacts to new Israeli government

South Florida Sun Sentinel


Photo: Sean Pavone /

he new incoming Israeli government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, drew reaction throughout the South Florida Jewish community.

Bennett was sworn in as prime minster on June 13, ending his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure in office, and will be prime minister until September 2023 as part of a power-sharing deal. He will then hand power over to Yair Lapid for two years following his tenure.

Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, acting consul general of Israel in Miami overseeing Florida, Kansas, Missouri and Puerto Rico, discussed how this transfer of power impacts Israel-United States relations.

“Although Netanyahu was perceived as someone who was closer to the Republicans more than the Democrats, the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is not a partisan issue,” Elbaz-Starinsky noted. “It doesn’t matter which government we have in Israel, and it doesn’t’ matter which party controls the House or even the White House. The relationship between Israel and United States is deep, strong, stable and based on shared values and common interest. It’s bipartisan, and so is the work of our consulates, our diplomats, our companies and our societies.”

Sara Gold Rafel, executive director for the Boca Raton-based StandWithUs/Southeast, said, “We thank Bibi Netanyahu for a lifetime of unwavering dedication and commitment to the state of Israel.”

“The new coalition is unique in Israeli history and proves the democratic nature of the country,” she continued. “We wish the incoming coalition government great success for the sake of all Israelis and peace with its neighbors.”

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace’s South Florida chapter who have not been happy with the Israeli government’s policy towards the Palestinians don’t see any changes with this transfer.

“I definitely don’t believe the treatment of Palestinians will be better,” said Ken Barnes of Miami. “The new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is to the right of Netanyahu, and a strong supporter of the settlement movement, which has been inflaming the situation. I look for continued occupation and repression by the Israeli government, until there is a fundamental shift in the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli government.”

Donna Nevel of Miami Beach said, “There will not be peace without justice, and there will not be justice until the Palestinian people are allowed to live in freedom and without fear of violence in their homeland, with the right to return to their land and their homes from which they were expelled.”

However, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Commitee’s Miami and Broward Office, welcomes the new government.

“I am proud of what Israel has accomplished by the formation of a unity government,” Siegal said. “This new government represents the diversity of Israel and will have to address some of Israel’s most critical issues. We at American Jewish Committee congratulate incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid on successfully forming a new government in Israel.”

Siegal continued, “We will gladly work with the new government, where appropriate, to help build on Israel’s remarkable achievements, as well as to strengthen the essential ties that bind the Jewish state and Jews around the world.”

“AJC’s national CEO David Harris said his organization ‘looks forward to working with the new coalition, as we have consistently done with every Israeli government since 1948, and we wish the leadership every success,’” Siegal said.

Sharona Whisler, executive director for the Zionist Organization of America’s Florida Region, who noted ZOA does not endorse any political candidates or parties, said the organization congratulates the new prime minister and his Yamina party.

“Like ZOA, he has always taken a very proud and strong approach in his support for the communities of Judea and Samaria and against the creation of a Palestinian Arab State, which would most certainly be a terror state,” Whisler continued. “We’re very concerned about the major opposition to these positions among the other parties in the government’s coalition, namely, the anti-religious party Meretz and former Joint Arab List party Ra’am.”

Whisler added, “Ra’am opposes Israel as a Jewish State, calling for a ‘right of return’ for every descendent of Arab who left when the modern Jewish State of Israel was established and immediately attacked by the surrounding Arab countries, knowing that such a policy would destroy the Jewish State.”

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