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Clinton's remarks on Israeli democracy spark lawmakers' ire

(Xinhua)

11:02, December 05, 2011

JERUSALEM, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks on Saturday voicing concerns about Israel's democracy and women's rights in the country angered some Jewish lawmakers, who slammed her comments as "exaggerated."

Speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington, Clinton said her concerns were caused by Israel's recently passed legislation that limits foreign funding for NGOs.

Clinton, who made her remarks to some Israeli officials at a closed session of the forum, also talked about the growing exclusion of women from the Israeli public society.

Clinton cited the gender segregation on certain bus lines as well as religious soldiers who refuse to attend women's performances, and compared the phenomena to that of Iran, the Ha' aretz daily reported.

However, several Israeli ministers strongly denied Clinton's claims that Israel's democracy was deteriorating.

"The Israeli democracy is alive, liberal and breathing," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said, and called Clinton's comments "completely exaggerated."

Comparing Israel with the West, Steinitz said "I don't know many better democracies in the world," while cautioning that "it is of course necessary to fix things sometimes."

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan urged Clinton to pay attention to U.S. domestic affairs, rather than those in other countries.

However, Clinton's remarks are supported by Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who thought the U.S. secretary of state's comments should "wake up all those that are still blind to the murky cloud that is passing over Israel."

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