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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Congressional hysteria on Lieberman

I'd like to make a few comments about the statements made here about foreign minister designate Avigdor Lieberman by anonymous Congressional staffers. But before I make those comments, I'd like to point out that those comments should be made by Israel's foreign ministry. They won't be. That's because for most of the last seventeen years, Israel's foreign ministry has been occupied by the likes of Shimon Peres, Shlomo Ben Ami and Tzipi Livni. All three of those foreign ministers - and therefore most of the foreign ministry staff - believes that the most important thing Israel can do is to bring about the creation of a 'Palestinian' state reichlet on half of our territory. As a result, they won't defend the Avigdor Lieberman's of the country who may be willing to countenance the creation of such a state, but place other foreign policy goals ahead of it. Instead, the foreign ministry leaves such hasbara (public relations) to be done in an unorganized fashion by bloggers like me who are willing to take up the mantle. As opposed to other times when the foreign ministry gives us talking points (usually long after I've discussed issues - no, you're not reading foreign ministry talking points at this blog), they have not even asked us to defend Lieberman. Somehow, the foreign ministry bureaucracy doesn't understand the harm that is being done to the country's reputation by having the future foreign minister sullied as a racist all over Washington. They don't understand that to defend Israel in Washington today, one must defend Avigdor Lieberman. Or they so resent Lieberman that they don't care. It's probably a combination of all of the above.

I'd like to take a couple of quotes from the article and tell you why they are slanderous.
"I think a lot of people are not going to be able to ignore the fact that under the foreign minister is a vicious, ugly bigot. That's going to make things hard," said a Congressional staffer. He predicted that this perception would complicate Lieberman's outreach efforts in Washington: "Members will be less interested in being seen with him or hearing his views."

"There's a danger that it makes the broad-based support that Israel has always enjoyed in the US Congress more difficult to hold together," said another Democratic Congressional staffer. "There's concern about him, even among the very pro-Israeli lawmakers."

He described the "polarizing effect" of his statements as causing headaches for members who want to be supportive of Israel but could find themselves unable to defend his positions. "It gives more cover to those who do not necessarily come to foreign policy with a pro-Israel perspective," the staffer explained. "It gives them the political space to make comments they would not make otherwise and advocate policy they would not advocate otherwise."

He added that Congress would still be inclined to sponsor resolutions supporting Israel and provide military aid, but that Lieberman's presence would creep into the debate on a two-state solution in a way that would not advance Israel's cause.
Can I guess the party of this first Congressional aide? Many Democrats are not comfortable with anything short of Israel's total capitulation to 'Palestinian' demands. Calling Lieberman a 'vicious, ugly bigot' is a canard. It's a lie. I should know: One of the reasons I didn't vote for Lieberman was his support of a 'Palestinian' state, because I believe that state would be a mortal threat to Israel's existence. Why is he a bigot? Because he wants the country's citizens to take a loyalty oath? Is this Congressional aide going to suggest that anyone who demanded that Americans take the pledge of allegiance (before the Supreme Court barred forcing people to take it) was also a bigot? Why is it 'not bigoted' to insist on a Jew-free 'Palestinian' state when it is 'bigoted' to insist that those Arabs who remain in Israel after such a 'Palestinian' state is created at least be loyal to Israel? And why doesn't the anonymous Congressional aide see the logical flaw in that position?

The second Congressional staffer - who admits to being a Democrat - worries about the 'broad-based' support Israel has always enjoyed. Are there Republicans who say they won't be seen with Lieberman? And how would Lieberman's presence 'creep' into debate about the 'two-state solution' in ways that would not be in Israel's best interest'? Could someone please explain that ominous threat?

Again, Lieberman favors the 'two-state solution.' In fact, in his heart of hearts, I believe he favors it more than Netanyahu does (I believe that in his heart of hearts Netanyahu opposes a 'Palestinian' state but is too politically savvy to say so. By the way, Tzipi Livni would probably agree with me on that one. That's why she wants him to say that he favors the 'two-state solution').
The other aide also said that the US-Israel relationship went too deep to be dependent on the personalities of the countries' leaders. "I don't think Lieberman or his party are of sufficient significance to the relationship as to put it in any kind of serious danger," he said.
I sure hope he's right about that one, because the current President of the United States seems determined to do as much damage as possible to the relationship.

This country is a democracy. It's a flawed democracy with a lousy electoral system that has put someone who got about 12.5% of the vote into the position of being able to demand one of the 'big three' ministries, but it is a democracy all the same. Politics, as was noted in a post I did earlier this week, is the art of compromise. If most Israelis can get that, why can't these anonymous Congressional staffers? Do you expect us to 'do over' the election? If you're not comfortable with the fact that 12.5% of Israel's citizens believe that 'Israeli Arabs' are disloyal (and fear the consequences), what will you do with the fact that the percentage of Israel's Jewish citizens who agree with Lieberman on that point is much higher - I would guess somewhere in the 60% range - and that many of those citizens voted for other parties for reasons that had nothing to do with loyalty oaths? The belief that most 'Israeli Arabs' are indifferent or worse to the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state is a mainstream belief among Israel's Jews today. And it's empirically provable and not just a prejudice. Look at the behavior of the MK's the 'Israeli Arab' parties send to the Knesset for that proof. Do a little research on Azmi Bishara (who is no longer an MK and no longer lives in Israel). Maybe then you will understand why most Jewish Israelis agree with Lieberman that most 'Israeli Arabs' are not loyal citizens of the State.
But he added, "The idea that you have an Israeli foreign minister who has views on Israel's Arab citizens which are incompatible with American values, I think it's going to make it awkward."
Is the pledge of allegiance now 'incompatible with American values'? Lieberman suggested that everyone in Israel should take a loyalty oath. He did not suggest expelling 'Israeli Arabs.' He didn't suggest transferring them or forcing them to leave their homes (with or without compensation). He did not suggest forcing them to use separate washrooms, drinking fountains or buses. All he suggested was that if they are going to call for the State's overthrow (which is the flip side of a loyalty oath), they should be called on it. What about that is 'inconsistent with American values'? Doesn't the United States require a loyalty oath when it naturalizes citizens? We forgot to do that here in Israel, so Lieberman is asking us to take stock and go back and make sure that those who participate in the State's political life assert loyalty to the State. How is that inconsistent with America's values?

The article follows with reactions from several 'Jewish leaders' to Lieberman's selection. Obviously, statements like the one below (which could have been written by many of the current bureaucrats in the foreign ministry) don't help Lieberman's Israel's cause.
Eric Alterman, another journalist who is on the advisory board of J Street, a left-wing lobby, said Lieberman was "bad for everybody."

"If the Israelis want to elect a bad government, they can, just the way the Palestinians elected a bad government with Hamas," Alterman said. "If the Israelis have made a terrible mistake, as many countries have, I'll say, 'I'm not going there with you guys.'"
Comparing Lieberman or Netanyahu's government-in-waiting to Hamas is way over the top. If you find our democratic choice so odious, please stop pretending that you support Israel, or keep your mouth shut.

I apologize for the length of this post. I believe I have said things that needed to be said.


This post is relevant and says it well.


At 8:17 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl, no apologies, necessary. I agree with what you had to say about Lieberman and what most Israeli Jews think about the Arabs and what should be added is why the world demands Israel's next government ignore the views of Israel's voters to continue pursuing a policy that led to no results for the past 15 years is an issue that should be addressed. No one questions when other countries have free elections and change the party that leads it, its accepted its people want to effect change for self-evident reasons. Only in Israel is it suddenly different. If the country doesn't elect a Leftist government as the rest of the world prefers, it becomes a pariah and is subjected to outrageous defamation, abuse and slander.

That has been the reality in the Europeans and the Americans trying to dictate to Israel not only its political personalities but policies they feel comfortable with. They should really go home and shut up! Outsiders don't live in Israel, have no idea what conditions are like in it, don't know and don't care what Israeli Jews think and they don't pay taxes and serve in Israel's army. They are not entitled, even though they have a lot of influence, to run the Jewish State. Israel is first and foremost, a sovereign country and has every right to pursue policies that best serve her interests and reflect the views of her people even when other countries want Israel to do it the way they want Israel to do it. That's why the election results showed that Israelis wanted to dump the discredited Oslo approach of the past 15 years and start afresh.

The real question for most Israeli Jews is not just what is the right path for the country to follow. Its not one of looking "nice" before the world. Its about ensuring their national safety and security of their families. That was surely a major concern of the country's voters in the Feb. 10th election and I haven't see it, come to think of it, mentioned once anywhere in the foreign media. Sure, Israelis want good and correct relations with friendly countries. But should push come to shove, they would rather remain alive even with the threat of being abandoned by their friends. For what its worth, it should be added that a "friend" who doesn't accept you for who you really are is in truth no friend at all.

That is the situation Israel is faced with today amidst a hostile international climate. It has been a long post to write but I just had to get these things off my chest because no one else has written or will probably write about them. The world needs to get used to the fact Israelis have every right to change their minds and insisting Israel return to what its was before because things have been that way since Oslo, well in closing it hardly needs to be said those dispensing that kind of sanctimonious and high-handed advice to Israel are not going to find too many listeners in Israel today.

In short, either accept Jews for who they are or don't bother dealing with them - no one is being forced to deal with Israel. That's all that needs to be said here.

At 3:53 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

UPDATE: This needs to go somewhere and Carl will cover it later today. Moshe Feiglin did not make it into the Knesset and today he presents the argument Zionism cannot just be existential; it must be about Jewish identity. He points out the loss of ten Likud mandates To Lieberman and the National Union and the party's narrow loss of Kadima is precisely why the Right (despite its clear overall win as a bloc) is in trouble. It has no agenda of its own to offer except to copy the Left. Which is why Bibi is seeking to woo the Left into his government. No Leftist politician would ever do the opposite. There's more, all of which makes for compelling reading.

Zero Sum Game - Moshe Feiglin

Feiglin is probably the most thoughtful figure in Israeli public life today.

Read it all.

At 4:03 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Aluf Benn at Haaretz paints an interesting portrait of why Bibi and Barak want to go to the political altar. The analysis here is the opposite of Moshe Feiglin's and it explains why Bibi and Barak seem to be (for the time being at least) a political match made in heaven.

Bibi and Barak Are A Perfect Political Match - Aluf Benn

Read it all.


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