A New Government

March 30, 2009

Tomorrow, the next government of the state of Israel will be sworn in, with Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister and, it appears, Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister.

J Street offers the incoming Prime Minister of Israel best wishes and congratulations.  As a pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy organization, we hope that will fulfill his promise to be a “partner for peace” and that he will immediately take concrete steps toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians and to define Israel’s permanent, recognized borders with all its neighbors.

J Street will continue to advocate for and support policies that, in our view, advance the long-term security of the state of Israel and the national interest of the United States.  As we found in our recent poll, a solid majority of Jewish Americans share our strong desire for a diplomatic and immediate end to the conflicts between Israel and its neighbors and recognize that failure to solve the conflict poses an existential threat to Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state.

Our positions are rooted solidly in both the democratic principles we hold as Americans and the values many of us were raised to hold as Jews.  The foundation of our support for the state of Israel is rooted in our common strategic interests as much as it is in our shared values.

Therefore, we will not hesitate to speak out if we believe that the governments of the United States or of Israel – or officials in those governments – stake out positions or take actions that are out of synch with those interests and values.  In that regard, even as we wish the new government well, we state our deep discomfort with and opposition to the nature of the campaign run by Avigdor Lieberman and the positions that he has staked out publicly, calling for loyalty oaths and disparaging Arab citizens of Israel.

For hundreds of years in the United States – and thousands elsewhere – Jews have known what it means to be an ethnic or religious minority.  Understandably, this has led to the Jewish community’s special sensitivity to and cognizance of the needs and rights of minorities.  As American Jews, we are particularly proud of our role in promoting and protecting basic civil rights for all minorities here in the United States and see those values as central to who we are as a Jewish people.

We as an organization cannot and will not remain silent in the months and years ahead should Israel adopt anything like the policies and views outlined by Avigdor Lieberman as a candidate and politician prior to entering the Foreign Minister’s office.  Those views – particularly towards the minority Arab citizenry of Israel – are in our opinion contrary to both our democratic and our Jewish values.  Not only will we ourselves make our views clear, but we will urge other Americans, Jews and Jewish organizations to do so as well.