Israeli minister urges caution in neo-Nazi condemnations to protect Trump relations
As anger grows in Israel over the muted response from its leaders over recent white supremacist violence in the US, the country's communications minister said Israeli politicians should be careful that their condemnations of neo-Nazi groups do not upset the White House.
Speaking on Thursday to The Jerusalem Post, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said that Israelis must defend President Donald Trump, who he described as the "best US leader Israel has ever had".
Trump faced huge criticism in the US and from world leaders over his refusal to openly condemn white supremacist attacks on anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville earlier this month, which left one activist dead.
"Due to the terrific relations with the US, we need to put the declarations about the Nazis in the proper proportion," said the Likud Party minister.
"We need to condemn anti-Semitism and any trace of Nazism, and I will do what I can as a minister to stop its spread."
Then came the golden "but".
"But Trump is the best US leader Israel has ever had. His relations with the prime minister of Israel are wonderful, and after enduring the terrible years of Obama, Trump is the unquestioned leader of the free world, and we must not accept anyone harming him," the right-wing minister added.
Kara's words contrasted with the voices in Israeli media that sharply condemned the US president's apparent failure to properly condemn neo-Nazi violence.
Trump lukewarmly criticised the "many sides" involved in the Charlottesville demonstrations and added that there are "very fine people on both sides".
On Thursday, Israel's longest-running print newspaper Haaretz ran the headline "Trump defends neo-Nazi marchers, shocking America".
Another popular Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth had the single word "SHAME" on its front page.
The papers were also critical of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose three-day silence on the matter was not received well by political commentators.
While the Israeli leader chose to tweet a semi-ambiguous message expressing his outrage at "expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism", his son Yair Netanyahu equated neo-Nazi groups with Antifa anti-racism activists.
"To put things in perspective. I'm a Jew, I'm an Israeli, the neo nazis scums [sic] in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out," the 26-year-old former soldier said.
"However the thugs of Antifa and BLM [Black Lives Matter] who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life," he added.