Israel Recalls an Ambassador After Remarks on Religious Party

Israel has recalled its ambassador to Germany after a newspaper quoted him as saying the Shas Party and other fervently Orthodox parties are undemocratic.

Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon summoned Avi Primor to Israel on Tuesday to clarify the statements attributed to the ambassador, which could embarrass Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is courting Orthodox support for the nation’s May elections.

Meanwhile, Shas leader Aryeh Deri called for Primor’s dismissal.

Discussing the political situation in Israel in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, Primor was quoted as saying that the Shas Party is “not based on laws or democracy. It rests on the laws of God and the words of rabbis.”

The newspaper also quoted him as stating that Israel’s other fervently Orthodox parties are also not founded on democratic principles.

Primor was also quoted as saying that most Shas supporters immigrated from Third World countries and that it will take time before they become familiar with the principles of democracy.

Primor said, “It is clear to anyone who reads the interviews, that my remarks were taken completely out of context.”

“I stressed that Israeli democracy is strong. Strong enough to absorb waves of immigration from countries that are democratic,” he said.

“I said that Shas is a party based on halachah [Jewish religious law] and on the decisions of their council of rabbinic sages. But that it is still an integral part of the democratic and parliamentary system in Israel.”

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