Michael Malchieli
Michael Malchieli Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

MK Michael Malkieli (Shas) clarified that he did not mean to hurt anyone's feelings when he made comments critics claimed implicitly compared Reform Jews and the Women of the Wall movement to dogs on Wednesday.

In a Knesset discussion on Wednesday dealing with the effect on Israel-Diaspora relations of canceling the Western Wall Plaza reform deal, which would have expanded the mixed gender prayer space and integrated it into the Western Wall Plaza, Malkieli had said that everywhere in the world there are norms of behavior which some visitors may find foreign.

During his statement, Malkieli cited the example of bans on dogs in some areas.

"There are also places in the world where dogs are forbidden to enter."

Speaking to the 103FM radio station on Thursday, Malkieli insisted that his remarks were "the result of ignorance and misunderstandings," saying that he was simply trying to illustrate how rules and customs were respected all over the world.

"There was a discussion about the influence of the Western Wall and cooperation with Diaspora Jews, and when we travel abroad, there are rules and rules everywhere and we must honor them. Even when Trump arrived at the Western Wall he separated from his wife and everyone went to his sector," continued Malkieli.

"Just as we respect those around us, it is time that we demand that Diaspora Jewry respect us as well. I did not compare women to dogs, I said that we expect the Reform to understand the sanctity of our Western Wall as we see it."

Malkieli's words on Wednesday had caused a storm in the Knesset and among the non-Orthodox movements.

Noa Sattath, a Reform official in Israel, called Malkieli's statements “part of an ongoing campaign of incitement against the Reform and Conservative movements trying to denigrate and delegitimize us.”

Masorti (Conservative) movement head Yitzhar Head told The Jerusalem Post that "They [haredi MKs] will continue to speak crassly and ignorantly. And we will continue to unambiguously demand that the Western Wall belongs to everyone, and that we need to return to the compromise agreement which will guarantee the unity of the Jewish people and enable equal access to the Western Wall for whoever wants it".

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said "in matters of substance, Israel belongs to the first-class elected candidates, while the rest - those who are not Orthodox - are treated as second-rate Jews. They are good only for giving us money and taking care of Israel's status in the world.

"In exactly the same way the government treats 400,000 Israelis who are good enough to pay taxes and serve in the army, but not good enough to marry in their own country," Svetlova said. Svetlova recently married in the Seychelles in order to avoid having to involve Israel’s Chief Rabbinate in her ceremony.

MK Dr. Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), Chairman of the Lobby for the Strengthening of the Jewish People, who initiated the discussion on the effect of cancelling the Western Wall layout on Israel-Diaspora relations, said that "the political unrest caused by cancelling the Western Wall plan created a charged and dangerous rift and damaged one of the most sensitive tissues at the core of the close and strategic relationship between Israel and the Diaspora: trust and reciprocity. This is a Jewish issue that must be removed from the political arena.

"The government continues to receive all forms of help from world Jewry, and especially American Jewry, on matters that are important to us. BDS, antisemitism, and security. In return, we slam the door in their faces. This issue poisons our relationship. We need world Jewry and it needs us," Shai explained.

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