1. Apologize, or resign By David Kimche
The Jerusalem Post Aug. 11, 2003
You saw fit to publish in The Jerusalem Post an outrageous attack on Edgar
Bronfman, who has over the years devoted his time and his money to
furthering the Jewish cause throughout the world. You describe his letter to
the US President George W. Bush as an act of perfidy and accuse him, inter
alia, of urging the president "to exert pressure on Israel."
This is blatantly untrue. I have read Edgar's letter carefully and there is
no hint of pressure, unless you equate applying "straightforwardness and
consideration" as pressure.
You take particular umbrage at what you describe as Edgar's criticism of the
security fence, though his description of that fence as being "complicated
and potentially problematic" is a mere statement of fact.
The fence, as it had been originally planned, did indeed enjoy the support
of a large majority of the people of Israel. It was meant to separate Israel
from the Palestinian territories, to offer protection from terrorists
crossing the Green Line into Israel.
That idea, however, was hijacked by the Israeli government for political,
and not for security purposes. The fence was moved eastward in order to
encompass as many settlements as possible. However, in addition to the
settlements the new route that is now planned for the fence would include
large tracts of Palestinian land and leave many thousands of Palestinians on
the Israeli side of the fence.
Hardly a formula for security! By all counts, the issue has become
"complicated and potentially problematic"!
You claim that Edgar has "initiated an outrageous act that stands in
defiance of the broad consensus of the World Jewish Congress constituency."
Who, Isi, gave you the right to decide what is the consensus of the WJC
constituency? Since when has that great organization, which does such
admirable work for the Jewish people, had to become a rubber-stamp for the
government of Israel? Since when has it to say amen for every decision taken
LET US never forget that one of the main sources of Israel's strength is the
Jewish world outside its borders. Let us not build a fence or a "separation
wall" between Israel and the Diaspora. We need the pluralism of ideas, we
need a dynamic Jewish leadership in the Diaspora concerned by events
affecting the Jewish people, whether in Israel or anywhere else.
We need dialogue, nor blind obedience.
Edgar's letter dealt with the vision of President Bush to create two
democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and
security. The government of Israel has subscribed to that vision. Together
with another American sympathetic to the Israeli cause, Lawrence
Eagleburger, Edgar writes that he was heartened by the president's
"insistence that the Palestinians must take decisive action against terror"
and he declares that "addressing the matter of incitement is so critical."
By no stretching of the imagination could this be called "an act of
perfidy." On the contrary, I believe that you, by your unprecedented attack
on your own president, have forfeited the right to the title of senior vice
president of the World Jewish Congress and, in the words of your letter, I
"request you to retract and apologize forthwith. Otherwise, I call on you to
The writer is a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry.
#2 Response to David Kimche
By Isi Leibler August 12, 2003
Written in response to "Apologize, or resign" by David Kimche, published by
the Jerusalem Post on August 11, 2003.
I still have clear memories of many meetings in your office during your term
as director general of the Foreign Ministry when I was head of the
Australian Jewish community. We discussed a wide variety of issues, in
particular Soviet Jewry.
But I will never forget how David Kimche, the softly spoken understated
civil servant, would become transformed into a passionate advocate when he
condemned Diaspora Jewish activists who he claimed were undermining Israel
by their incessant public critiques of Israeli policy. You said that if they
wanted to criticize Israeli policies, especially to security-related issues,
they should make first make aliya. You would repeat again and again that it
was immoral for Diaspora Jews to intervene on issues that effect the life
and death of Israelis.
Of course these are different times and we are all entitled to change our
views. But it is paradoxical that I made aliya and today you criticize me
for repeating the views you conveyed to me when you were Director General of
the Foreign Ministry.
Let us set aside the fact that 80% of Israeli Jews happen to support the
government on the security fence issue. That does not invalidate your
position and time may prove you right.
But having said that, surely the fence is a security-related issue for us to
determine in Israel. Are you seriously suggesting that it is appropriate for
a powerful man like Edgar Bronfman, living in New York and holding the title
of President of the WJC, to lobby the President of the United States against
Israeli policies on the eve of a visit by the Prime Minister of Israel? Bear
in mind that he even defined the fence in the language of those opposing
Israel's policy as a "separation wall". And to then urge President Bush to
exert pressure and apply "the same straightforwardness in his meeting with
Prime Minister Sharon" as he had with the Palestinian Prime Minister? David,
I find it mind-boggling if you are telling me that it is legitimate for a
Jewish leader to lobby the President of the United States in this manner.
I endorse your call for "dialogue not blind obedience" in Israel Diaspora
relations. But does dialogue mean canvassing governments to oppose Israeli
Besides, surely the head of an international body should consult his
colleagues before embarking on such a radical initiative. Had he done so he
would have found the overwhelming majority of them opposed to lobbying
President Bush against the security fence. That is why the problem of
accountability and governance is also relevant.
Finally, David, if you seek "dialogue" why go to the President of the United
States rather than the Government of Israel? I joined Edgar Bronfman in a
meeting with Prime Minister Sharon earlier this year and all he did was to
praise the Prime Minister.
When I was head of the Australian Jewish community I supported the Oslo
Accords because initially I believed that it might lead to peace and also
because I felt that as a Diaspora Jewish leader my role on such a delicate
issue was to support the democratically elected government of Israel.
But when I began to lose faith in the process, I did not lobby foreign
governments. I met with Prime Minister Rabin and Dr. Beilin and conveyed my
concerns as did other Jewish leaders.
David, I suggest you review your position. I can assure you that the
hundreds of messages I have received from Jews all over the world reflect an
overwhelming public support for my position. Edgar Bronfman has indeed made
major contributions to the Jewish welfare. But are you saying that this
gives him the right, whilst holding the office of President of the WJC, to
lobby the President of the United States against security policies supported
by 80% of Israeli Jews? Do you really believe that?
Isi Leibler is Senior Vice President of the World Jewish Congress