U.S. Groups To Host Rightist Minister With Anti-Arab Plan

By Marc Perelman

Published November 24, 2006, issue of November 24, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In a further indication of his acceptance into the political mainstream, controversial right-wing Israeli politician and newly minted government minister Avigdor Lieberman will be hosted next month in New York by the most influential umbrella organization of American Jewish groups.

The leader of the secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, Lieberman is best known for his proposal to transfer part of Israel’s Arab population by turning over territory within the 1967 border to the Palestinians. But he is slated to speak about Iran on December 12, when he addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in his capacity as deputy prime minister in charge of strategic threats.

In recent years, leading liberals, as well as some prominent centrists, have claimed that the Presidents Conference was tilting toward the right. Yet the decision to host Lieberman, a pariah among Israeli doves, has not drawn any public objections from members of the conference. Lieberman is also scheduled to appear in front of the hawkish Middle East Forum, a think tank run by conservative scholar Daniel Pipes.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the outspoken liberal voice who is president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said that it was a “good idea” for the Presidents Conference to offer Lieberman the opportunity to explain his views and hear the voices of the American Jewish community.

“I would never object to the conference bringing an Israeli government minister,” Yoffie told the Forward. “This is part of their job as long as the policy is applied to the full range of the political spectrum.”

Yoffie, who met Lieberman in Israel before he became a minister, said next month’s meeting would be helpful, since it would expose Lieberman to the same diverging opinions he faces in Israel. According to Yoffie, the invitation does not represent an endorsement or the granting of legitimacy to Lieberman and his views.

“We wouldn’t want to give him the impression that we deem his extremist views as acceptable to the conference, to American Jews and to the American government,” Yoffie said.

Lieberman’s party captured 11 seats in the last Knesset elections, and was recently brought into the national unity government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Last month, Olmert said that the inclusion of Lieberman did not represent an endorsement of his controversial platform regarding Israeli Arabs. The plan, initially introduced in 2004 as a response to the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, advocated by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, would entail the transfer of Israeli territories with high Arab populations abutting the 1967 armistice line and require any remaining Israeli Arab to take a loyalty oath to the Jewish state.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Lieberman previously served in the 1990s as chief of staff to then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party. Yoffie said that Lieberman was more complex than the “wild-eyed lunatic” image conveyed by some of his recent statements. Still, the leader of Reform Judaism said that he intended to use the meeting to press the government minister on his “very extreme” views of Israeli Arabs and on his statements that Israel should deal with Hamas in the same ruthless manner in which Russia has been putting down the rebellion in its restive southern region of Chechnya.

“This is deeply offensive, because even the U.S. government has expressed concerns over Russia’s tactics in Chechnya,” Yoffie said. “This slash-and-burn approach is at odds with the democratic standards of Israel.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.