MK Aryeh Deri, leader of Shas, announced Wednesday that he is pulling out of the Haaretz Conference on Democracy scheduled for mid-February, after finding out that the New Israel Fund is among its sponsors.
"Regrettably,” he said, “I see that in the last few days, the conference has turned into a divisive discourse that fosters dissent in Israeli society. Especially during election season, I do not want to be a part of this festival.”
His comments come immediately after Dani Dayan, the former head of the Yesha Council which represents Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, said that he does not intend to cancel his participation in the Democracy Conference, despite the NIF's sponsorship.
The less the audience is “convinced I am right” – the more important it is to appear before it, he explained. “Unless you are looking for easy applause. That is why I accepted invitations from J Street in the past, as well as One Voice, leftist members of parliaments, EU foreign ministries and ambassadors and more.”
Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely and MK Ze'ev Elkin of Likud announced Sunday that they have cancelled their planned speeches at the conference. On Monday morning, Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett cancelled his participation too.
The NIF has been viewed with contempt by nationalists since it was revealed, in 2010, that groups it funded provided over 90% of the Israeli quotes cited in the UN's infamous Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza.