J Street is troubled by ongoing efforts to whitewash Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's positions and rhetoric. On his first day in office, Mr. Lieberman renounced the Annapolis process, making it abundantly and belligerently clear that he will not be a partner in the active pursuit of a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The next day, he likely ruled out peace with Syria by taking negotiations over the Golan Heights off the table. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. As the Israeli daily Haaretz said today, "The world will dismiss him as an insignificant loudmouth not worth talking to.... If the government is seen as reluctant to achieve peace, renouncing the basic principles of the peace process that are supported by a sweeping international consensus, Israel will find itself isolated." Yet, some are spinning Mr. Lieberman’s views fast and furious in an effort to save the new Foreign Minister from quickly placing himself beyond the outer reaches of policy and political respectability for the international community. Just yesterday, the Anti-Defamation League said that Avigdor Lieberman's speech provided "proof of Mr. Lieberman's committment to peace." The Israel Project's Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi continues to argue that Lieberman supports a viable two-state solution and is "very moderate on a lot of issues." And, of course, it’s no surprise that Lieberman has fans like Middle East Forum Director Daniel Pipes who called Lieberman's debut on the world stage "brilliant", writing that the speech left him "elated". As JTA Columnist Ron Kampeas wrote yesterday, efforts to sugarcoat the Lieberman agenda simply don’t stand up to objective scrutiny:
It's not news that Lieberman accepts two states. His "Lieberman plan" is predicated upon two states. It is also predicated upon stripping a sizable percentage of Israeli Arabs of their citizenship. It is also probably illegal. This renders his commitment to "two states" virtually meaningless and unserious. Imagine a Mexican government "recognizing" the United States and claiming Texas. Better yet, imagine Arab states "recognizing" Israel but insisting on a full right of return for all Palestinian refugees. Israel laughs off that scenario as unserious. It runs both ways.So what does this mean for pro-Israel, pro-peace Jews in America and around the world? We need to address honestly and straightforwardly what Mr. Lieberman says and what he represents. He is the Foreign Minister of Israel – and we need to give him the respect of dealing with what he says honestly rather than trying to obscure it. Where we object we should speak out – particularly to make clear that some of his positions are racist and anti-democratic and run counter to our most basic values. We can also – in the context of our support for the state of Israel, its future and its security – express our opposition to policies we believe undermine the survival and security of Israel. Through speaking out, perhaps we can help point to a different path for Israel that holds greater hope for long-term security and peace for Israel and the region.