Response to David Kimche

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Written in response to “Apologize, or resign” by David Kimche, published by the Jerusalem Post on August 11, 2003.

Dear David,

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 policies?

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?

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