In the course of a visit to Israel by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, approximately 20 heads of the most senior Israeli think tanks and media leaders were invited by the American Ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, to a dinner at his private residence to receive a confidential briefing from the Secretary of State. The event took place on September 10.
A bizarre exchange took place at this gathering between one of the participants and the Secretary of State. It was initially broadcast on Israel TV Channel 2 by Ehud Yaari, one of Israel’s most highly respected commentators, who had not attended the dinner but had verified the details with colleagues who were present. The public did not appreciate the seriousness of the incident because Yaari failed to disclose that the person involved was none other than Haaretz editor David Landau.
I have independently verified details of what transpired and in response to questioning by Yaari and in an interview with Gary Rosenblatt, the editor of the New York Jewish Week, Landau himself confirmed the veracity of the events outlined below. (see Haaretz editor urged Rice to ‘Rape’ Israel)
Following the briefing, Mr. Landau, who was seated adjacent to the Secretary of State, turned to Secretary Rice, and as he said to the Jewish Week, “I told [Rice] that it had always been my wet dream to address the Secretary of State” on how to act in relation to Israel.
Landau opened his remarks by referring to Israel as a “failed state” politically. He said that the only way Israel could be saved would be if the United States were to impose a settlement. Landau told Rice “I implore you” to intervene and added that the Government of Israel wanted “to be raped”.
Condoleezza Rice responded that whilst she appreciated the dilemmas facing Israel, the United States would never impose its views on the Jewish state in such a manner. Landau told the Jewish Week that the Secretary of State was completely unfazed by his remarks.
For the US Secretary of State to partake in such an exchange with the editor of a major Israeli newspaper is mind boggling. Whilst Ms. Rice rejected Landau’s entreaties for the United States to force Israel to act in what he perceived to be Israel’s best interest, there is little doubt that his remarks would have subsequently been widely aired in US State Department circles.
Anyone familiar with Israel’s diplomatic history will be aware that the worst fear of government after government was the prospect of the United States alone or in conjunction with another power, seeking to impose a settlement which would be to Israel’s political detriment or compromise its vital security interests.
By any benchmark, Landau’s behavior as an Israeli citizen would be deemed unacceptable. But it is surely unconscionable that the editor of one of Israel’s most influential newspapers, which also appears in an English and global internet version, could urge an American Secretary of State to “rape” his own government. If ever there was a crossing of every red line in terms of propriety, national integrity, and civic responsibility, this extraordinary intervention tops the bill. This is surely not behaviour befitting the editor of a major newspaper. Could one possibly visualize the head of a major European media outlet behaving in such a manner in relation to his country?
What is even more outrageous is that far from displaying remorse at his behaviour, Landau told the Jewish Week that “he had no regrets and that, on the contrary he was pleased, adding that he was later congratulated by several professors in the room who felt ‘I articulated what many Israelis feel’.”
On November 6, I wrote an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post sharply condemning Landau for what I considered to be a basic violation of the Israeli Press Council’s code of ethics (see Shame on Haaretz).
I related specifically to statements in which Mr. Landau had boasted that in order to promote the so called “peace agenda”, he had deliberately exploited his editorial authority to “soft pedal” acts of corruption by senior political leaders including Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Olmert. Landau had also reiterated that he intended pursuing the same course of action in the future.
I also noted that Mr. Landau had instructed his staff not to respond to requests for corrections of demonstrable falsehoods published in his paper, if the source of the complaint was CAMERA, the American Jewish media watchdog organization that footnotes all its criticisms. Mr. Landau justified this on the grounds that CAMERA was a “McCarthyite” organization.
Although the Israel Press Council intervention on such issues is rare, I understand that it is investigating these apparent breaches of their code of ethics.
However this latest incident goes far beyond journalistic ethics. It involves a profound moral issue which touches upon the core of our dignity and self respect as a nation and cannot simply be dismissed as another example of post Zionism or infantile radicalism. Whereas left and right wing groups, to their discredit, have previously appealed to international public opinion to support their views against the policies of particular governments, there is a quantum leap from such action to a senior Israeli media personality appealing for intervention directly to a Secretary of State.
Of course, Landau is entitled to his personal opinions. But it is surely a staggering act of reckless arrogance and a reflection of utter contempt for the democratic process when the editor of Haaretz newspaper at such a venue to have passionately conveyed such views to the American Secretary of State at this most sensitive diplomatic juncture. I have no doubt that the vast majority of Israelis across the entire political spectrum would condemn his action as irresponsible and immoral.
Mr. Landau should apologize or resign.