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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has nominated a Cabinet minister known for inflammatory comments and for leading a grassroots campaign against African migrants to the post of consul general in New York, a high-profile job that deals with outreach to American Jews.
May Golan, currently a minister without portfolio in Netanyahu’s government, built her political career on staunch opposition to African migrants in Israel. She calls them “infiltrators” and has portrayed the estimated 40,000 migrants, mostly concentrated in poor neighborhoods of the southern part of the city of Tel Aviv, as threats to security.
After a failed bid to enter parliament with the ultranationalist Jewish Power party in 2013, she joined Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party and was first elected to parliament in 2019.
Netanyahu recently promised Golan the role of the as yet uncreated Ministry for the Status of Women. His office confirmed media reports on Wednesday that he has offered her the consul general post, citing “her excellent explanatory abilities in English.”
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Golan, who is on a trip to the United States, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Israel’s previous consul general, Assaf Zamir, resigned last month in protest over the Netanyahu government’s controversial judicial overhaul plan.
The U.S. is home to the largest Jewish community outside Israel, with the single largest community living in the greater New York metropolitan area.
Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin, right, listens to May Golan during a session at the parliament, Knesset, in Jerusalem on March 20, 2023. Golan has been nominated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to serve as Israel’s consul general in New York. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Netanyahu’s government is the most ultranationalist and religious in Israel’s 75-year history. Golan is part of the ultranationalist wing of Netanyahu ‘s Likud and her political positions, including comments disparaging the liberal Reform Jewish movement, are likely to cause friction with American Jews, who are overwhelmingly liberal.
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In addition to being a proponent of the judicial overhaul plan that has divided the country, Golan has also advocated annexation of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and has long campaigned for the deportation of African migrants.
The Africans, nearly all from long-reclusive Eritrea and war-torn Sudan, say they fled for their lives and face renewed danger if they return. Israel considers the vast majority of the Africans to be job seekers.
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In 2014, Golan told the Haaretz newspaper that she avoided restaurants that employed African asylum seekers out of fear of catching diseases.
“If I am racist for wanting to defend my country and for wanting to protect my basic rights and security, then I’m a proud racist,” she said at a rally in south Tel Aviv in 2013.