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Yair Netanyahu’s non-Jewish girlfriend a national issue, Shas’ Deri says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The leader of the haredi Orthodox Shas party said the the relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son and a non-Jewish Norwegian woman is a matter of national concern.

Yair Netanyahu, 23, is dating Sandra Leikanger, 25, a woman he met while they were both studying at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. Netanyahu reportedly chatted with Norway’s prime minister about his son’s relationship at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Woe is us if it is true,” Shas chairman Aryeh Deri told the haredi radio station Kol Barama on Monday. He added that if the reports of the relationship are true, then the prime minister and his wife “have a great heartache.”

Deri explained that he was not attacking the prime minister over his son’s choice of a girlfriend.

“I try not to raise personal criticism, but if, heaven forbid, this is true, it is no longer a personal matter — it is a symbol of the Jewish people,” he said.

Deri also said he was concerned about how the relationship would appear to people “who invest tens of millions, hundreds of millions to fight assimilation throughout the world.”

Other Shas members and members of other parties, including Netanyahu’s own Likud, have criticized the relationship.

Bentzi Gopshtain, head of the Lehava organization, which is dedicated to fighting assimilation in Israel, warned Netanyahu that his grandchildren from that pairing would not be Jewish. He called on Netanyahu “to prevent this relationship.”

Binyamin Lipkin, editor of the haredi newspaper Hamevaser, criticized Netanyahu in an article published in Ynet.

“If the prime minister constantly waves [sic] his ultimate demand that the Palestinians recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state, it is not in line with that same prime minister’s indecent bragging about his son’s relationship with a gentile,” Lipkin wrote. “If this relationship leads to marriage, it will serve as a de facto declaration from the highest official in Israel that Israel is a state of all citizens and not a Jewish state.”

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