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February 24, 2021 5:04 pm

Head of Israel’s Labor Says Party Supports ‘Improved’ Iran Deal, Calls Netanyahu Approach a Failure

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli Labor party leader Meirav Michaeli speaks at Temple Emanu-El on the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in New York, April 7, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Allison Joyce.

The head of Israel’s opposition Labor party said Tuesday that it would support a revamped nuclear agreement with Iran, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed on the issue.

Speaking at a virtual event for English-speakers co-sponsored by Tel Aviv International Salon and the Jerusalem Post, Meirav Michaeli — the only woman leading a major political party in Israel’s current election campaign — said that “Labor will support an upgraded, improved agreement with Iran, because this is the best way to ensure keeping Iran away from a nuclear bomb.”

“Israel will have to make sure that our interests are included in this next agreement,” she said.

She blamed Netanyahu for his approach over the past decade, saying that “he has failed so amazingly, because when you look at the outcome, Iran is closer to a nuclear bomb today more than ever. Certainly, much more than it was when he started his campaign.”

She said that, in the Biden administration, “as committed as they are to the State of Israel and to its security; they are completely unsure, when Netanyahu speaks, does he represent Israel’s interests, or does he represent his own personal interests?”

“They do not trust him and, therefore, they do not really listen to him. So, Netanyahu became a strategic problem for Israel when it comes to Iran,” she asserted.

Michaeli also spoke passionately about the importance of Israel’s relationship with US Jews and the need to foster religious pluralism in Israel to avoid alienating the majority of American Jews, who are not Orthodox.

She returned from a trip to the US, she said, “realizing what a tragedy, what a miss-out, what a waste, and what a strategic mistake it is for Israel to miss out on the relationship with American Jews.”

“It’s just unbelievable that we don’t embrace American Jewry and that we don’t embrace the amazing, thriving Judaism, and the new options that emerge in these places,” Michaeli said.

She added that this was because Israel has failed to embrace non-Orthodox sects of Judaism, “because of the very damaging mix between religion and politics … this mixture in Israel causes Judaism in Israel to be stuck, stuck in a different age, in a different era, and it drives people away from Judaism as an entity, as the inspiration it should be, as the heritage it should be for everyone. And that is really a disaster.”

She noted that Labor has a Reform rabbi on its list of candidates, who has a good chance of being the first such rabbi elected to the Knesset.

“It’s part of the antidote, yes,” Michaeli explained. “It’s not enough, but it’s also something — that there will be representation for the Reform movement in the Knesset. But our work is cut out for us to re-shape” the religious status quo in Israel.

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