In the wake of Obama’s appearance, the Israeli foreign minister’s speech to the UN this week drew condemnations.
Not surprisingly, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s speech to the UN General Assembly this week drew condemnations, with Palestinian delegates walking out on the speech.
Israel’s left-wing daily Haaretz ran an article claiming U.S. Jews were “outraged.” It quotes extreme-dovish activist Seymour Reich as saying, “If Lieberman can’t keep his personal opinions to himself, he ought to resign from the cabinet,” and an unnamed “leader” as saying, “Every time…Lieberman voices his skepticism about achieving peace, he undermines Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s credibility.”
In Israel, among prominent commentators denouncing the speech was Ron Ben-Yishai in Yediot Aharonot, the country’s largest daily. In a piece called “Time to Fire Lieberman,” Ben-Yishai, who usually writes on military affairs and is often quite reality-cognizant, bitterly accused Lieberman of showing “chutzpah and contempt” toward Netanyahu, “undermin[ing] Israel’s image as a democratic, enlightened state,” and “grant[ing] a diplomatic victory” to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.
Ministers from the left-of-center Labor Party — part of Netanyahu’s coalition — also skewered the speech.
Now, what did Lieberman actually say? A perusal of the short address reveals nothing morally or intellectually objectionable.
After the opening pleasantries, Lieberman asked: “why, during the seventeen years since we signed the Oslo Accords, have we not arrived at a comprehensive agreement signifying the end of the conflict [with the Palestinians]?”
He went on to contest “the prevalent view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the heart of the instability in the Middle East,” noting that:
More than ninety percent of the wars and war victims of the [region] since the Second World War did not result from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are in no way connected to Israel, stemming rather, from conflicts involving Muslims or conflicts between Arab states. The Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war, the wars between North and South Yemen, the Hamma atrocities in Syria, and the wars in Algeria and Lebanon, are just a few examples of a list that goes on and on.
Anything wrong there? Nope; I could have said it myself.
Lieberman then turned to the “second flawed explanation” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, namely, “the so-called ‘occupation,’ the settlements in Judea and Samaria and the settlers themselves.” He pointed out:
Firstly, all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza were under Arab control for 19 years, between 1948 and 1967. During these 19 years, no one tried to create a Palestinian state.
Peace agreements were achieved with Egypt and Jordan despite the presence of settlements. And the opposite is also true: we evacuated twenty-one flourishing settlements in Gush Katif [in Gaza], and we transferred more than 10,000 Jews and in return, we have Hamas in power and thousands of missiles on Sderot and southern Israel.
Again, all quite accurate.
Lieberman went on:
The other misguided argument is the claim that the Palestinian issue prevents a determined international front against Iran…. In truth, the connection between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is precisely reversed. Iran can exist without Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, but the terrorist organizations cannot exist without Iran…. [I]n searching for a durable agreement with the Palestinians…one must understand that first, the Iranian issue must be resolved….
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