JERUSALEM (Dec. 8)
An Israeli legislator has caused an outcry in the Knesset after calling the U.S. ambassador to Israel “a Jew-boy.”
Knesset member Zvi Hendel, a member of the National Union-Israel, Our Home faction, was reacting to Daniel Kurtzer’s remarks that Israel should allocate funds for the disabled and not for Jewish settlements.
The ambassador’s remarks came against the backdrop of a prolonged dispute between disabled Israelis and the government for increased benefits. Demonstrators launched a sitdown strike in government buildings in Jerusalem over three weeks ago.
Hendel said Kurtzer’s remarks were out of place and criticized the ambassador for “meddling in internal affairs.”
The Prime Minister’s Office soon weighed in, saying Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “strongly” condemned Hendel’s remarks.
Kurtzer is known as a strong supporter of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and an opponent of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hendel’s derisive comments prompted outrage in the Knesset, which quickly divided along ideological lines.
“If that anti-Semite Zvi Hendel now calls me a ‘Jew-boy,’ I’ll wear the label with pride,” opposition leader Yossi Sarid said.
Sarid added that he agrees with Kurtzer’s remarks.
Labor faction leader Efi Oshaya lodged a complaint over Hendel’s remarks with the Knesset Ethics Committee.
Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior said Hendel had violated the honor of the Knesset and inflicted harm on the Jewish people.
The dispute mirrors one several years ago when right-wing legislator Rehavam Ze’evi called then-U.S. ambassador Martin Indyk, one of the architects of the peace process, a “Jew-boy” for not supporting a more nationalist Israeli line.
The last time someone called me that, he got a punch in the face, Indyk replied, and the two almost came to blows.