Israeli political figures on Sunday rejected comments by American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in which she expressed concern for the state of what she called “democracy” in Israel.
Clinton was cited by the Israeli press late Saturday as expressing concern over recent Knesset legislation and social trends signifying popular resistance to westernization in Israel.
Speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington, Clinton specifically mentioned bills limiting funding from western governments for Israeli NGOs and the exclusion of women in the public sphere, as exemplified by gender separation on buses serving the Ultra-Orthodox community and controversy over women singing in the military.
Member of Knesset Uri Ariel (National Union) commented Sunday that Clinton “would do well not to interfere with Israel’s internal affairs and worry instead about American citizens.”
“Her unwanted interference is an additional proof that Israel needs laws that will preserve its character and protect it from interference by foreign governments who try to minimize Israel’s Jewish character,” he added.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) also rejected Clinton’s criticism, suggesting that “elected officials all over the world should first worry about their problems at home.”
Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose Shas party represents the interests of traditional Sephardic Jews, said that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and I believe that everything we do here will be done according to the law and I am not worried about it.”
Matityahu Ben Yosef of the Semitic Action movement accused Clinton and the United States of promoting a culturally imperialist agenda in regards to Israel, arguing that the best thing Clinton can do for Israeli democracy is stay out of the Jewish state’s internal political affairs.
“If Clinton is truly worried about the strength of Israel’s democracy, the most constructive thing that the United States could do is to stop interfering in Israeli affairs and to allow the will of the Israeli people, and not foreign powers, to determine Israeli policy.”