Middle East

Anger over Netanyahu silence on Trump and Charlottesville

Combination image of Israeli front pages
Image caption Israeli newspapers expressed shock and disbelief at Trump's remarks

Most Israeli politicians and press have decried US President Donald Trump's remarks on the violent protests in Charlottesville - and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lack of response - and are examining the implications for America's Jewish community.

The Charlottesville marches shocked Israel and have been unanimously condemned. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said that it was almost beyond belief that the Nazi flag was currently being paraded in the US, "the greatest democracy in the world and Israel's greatest ally".

'Nauseating'

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily led with the headline "shame" over a picture of the US president, referring to Donald Trump's remarks which equated neo-Nazis to leftists involved in the clashes. A column in the newspaper deemed the remarks to be the most prominent defence of white supremacy and racism by a top US politician yet.

Liberal daily Haaretz's front-page headline read "Trump defends neo-Nazi marchers, shocking America," while Maariv's front page called President Trump out on his "presidential embrace of the far-right".

Newspaper Israel Hayom, reputed to be close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made no mention of the developments on its front page and offered factual coverage on page 24.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Donald Trump met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem last May

Labour Party member of the Knesset Shelly Yachimovich took to Facebook to say that as the daughter of Holocaust survivors, she found the display of Nazi symbols "physically nauseating".

She also took aim at Prime Minister Netanyahu who condemned the far-right protestors but not Trump's words: "You, the prime minister of the Jewish people in their land, the man who warns us about a Holocaust every Monday and Thursday with fear mongering and bombastic oaths of " never again"? What is the matter with you?"

'An abandonment of American Jewry'

Mr Netanyahu on Wednesday tweeted out a statement to say that he was "outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism" and added that "everyone should oppose this hatred". A response that underwhelmed his critics.

The prime minister's son, Yair Netanyahu, also came under fire for a Facebook post where he equated both sides involved in clashes.

"To put things in perspective: I'm a Jew, I'm an Israeli, the neo-Nazi scum in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out. However the thugs of Antifa and BLM [Black Lives Matter] who hate my country (and the USA too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in US universities and public life."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The clashes in Charlottesville drew widespread reaction on social media in the Middle East

The post sparked numerous responses on social media. Legislator Mickey Rosenthal from the Zionist Union tweeted: "Unfortunately, the son continues to sow hate like his father."

"This is the message of Netanyahu's silence: I am not the prime minister of the Jewish people. I am the prime minister of all of the Jewish people who are right-wing, pro-settlement, anti-Palestinian, pro-me," a column in Haaretz said.

Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin told Radio Kan that Israel should not intervene in the internal affairs of the US and that the interpretations of President Trump's comments were far-fetched.

The US support for Israel is bipartisan and the alliance between Israel and America needs to stand above all other considerations, he added.

Omer Bar-Lev of the centre-left Zionist Union said that Levin's remarks amounted to "an abandonment of American Jewry and Judaism as such".

'Strategic partnership'

The prime minister has faced similar criticism for refusing to condemn a negative poster campaign against Jewish Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The posters featuring US billionaire George Soros were displayed around Hungary this summer

The anti-Soros posters were condemned by local Jewish leaders and the Israeli embassy in Hungary, but the Israeli foreign ministry later backtracked.

"In no way was the statement meant to delegitimise criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel's democratically elected governments by funding organisations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself," a foreign ministry spokesperson said.

The right-wing Hungarian government removed the posters three days before Prime Minister Netanyahu's 18 July visit, but the controversy did not end there.

On 12 August, a columnist in Haaretz said that "in Netanyahu's world, George Soro's politics justify throwing him to Hungary's anti-Semitic dogs".

"The storm that erupted after the prime minister refrained from denouncing anti-Semitic expressions in Hungary about a month ago indicates a strategic partnership between illiberal regimes," an op-ed in Haaretz concluded on 14 August.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

More on this story