Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denounced on Wednesday a slew of recent attacks on Reform Jews from members of his coalition.
The attacks were made in the wake of a government decision on Sunday to allow non-Orthodox denominations of Judaism an expanded site for prayer at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem.
"I reject the recent disparaging and divisive remarks by ministers and members of Knesset about Reform Jews," Netanyahu said in a statement, following calls from American Jewish groups to renounce the comments.
"Reform and Conservative Jews are part and parcel of the Jewish people and should be treated with respect," he added.
During Sunday's cabinet discussion on expanding the egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) argued the space would eventually become irrelevant given the extent of assimilation among Reform Jews in the US.
"The Reform Jews in the United States are a waning world," Levin charged. "The assimilation there is of enormous extent. They don't even properly track [the assimilation] inside their communities. The evidence is that a man who calls himself a reform rabbi is standing there with a priest and weds Hillary Clinton's daughter, and no one condemns it, thereby legitimizing it."
Knesset members of the haredi United Torah Judaism faction also attacked Reform Jews, with Moshe Gafni labeling them "a bunch of clowns who stick a knife in the holy Torah."
In his statement Wednesday, Netanyahu maintained his commitment to the expanded prayer section, hailing it as an "historic compromise that ensures that the Western Wall will continue to be a source of unity and inspiration for the entire Jewish people."
"This is the government’s policy. This is my policy," the Prime Minister stressed.