Posted by Rob Eshman
Uri Dromi’s latest Miami Herald Column:
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, has raised some concerns because of his hawkish positions and blunt language. However, European foreign ministers who met him this week were happily surprised by his pragmatism. It seems like a rehearsal for his future meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Here is my guess of how that meeting might go.
HC: Mr. Lieberman, so good to see you at last.
AL: Indeed, madam secretary; you met every Arab [expletive] before you made time to see me.
HC: I love your directness. We need this kind of frank talk once in a while. Especially here in Washington.
AL: I know, you hypocrites are too used to double-talk and [expletive] to the Arabs.
HC: OK, big mouth. Tell me what is your prime minister’s peace plan.
AL: Bibi Netanyahu? I don’t know about him. I don’t think he knows himself. This is why he first sent President Shimon Peres to meet with you guys, to find out what you’re up to.
HC: That’s simple. We want you to freeze the settlements.
AL: The only thing I freeze, madam secretary, is my vodka. By the way, I happen to have here—
HC: No, put that bottle away, right now, Mr. Lieberman. Please, let’s get serious.
AL: But I am serious, this is the finest vodka you can get. you can call me Iwet.
HC: OK, Mr. Lieberman, Iwet, and you can call me Hillary. Now, what is your take on the recent U.N. report, about you Israelis using excessive force in Gaza?
AL: [Expletive!] This is the only way to deal with those SOBs, if you’ll excuse my French. See how we dealt with them in Chechnya.
HC: Chechnya? I thought the Russians did it.
AL: Of course, of course. I was just saying, you need to be tough with all those bandits.
HC: Still, I’m not sure this is the right way—
AL: Why not? For sure, it was always the American way. If force doesn’t work, use more force. Look at Fallujah, for example.
HC: That is different.
AL: Why? You leveled whole neighborhoods and killed civilians.
HC: Yes, but we are Americans. When we do it, we do it for noble causes.
AL: Like what?
HC: Like making the world a safer place.
AL: I see, and when Israel uses force, it’s not for noble causes?
HC: No, you’re too small to have noble causes. I mean, no, don’t get me wrong, Iwet, we have the highest admiration for you guys. Anyway, all this belongs in the past. We have since dropped the Bush policies toward the Muslim world, and now we are advancing the new Obama approach, that of Engagement.
AL: Exactly. I wanted to discuss this nonsense with you. How can you be so naive, and believe all those liars?
HC: Why not believe them? How can you tell when they are lying anyway?
AL: It’s simple. Whenever they move their lips they are lying.
HC: So when (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad says he wants to destroy Israel, he is actually lying?
AL: That’s a dirty trick, Hillary. Look, it’s simple. Muslims and Arabs are always lying, even when they are telling the truth. Israelis are always telling the truth. Period.
HC: In that case, when you cursed the Egyptian president and threatened to bomb the Aswan Dam, you really meant it?
AL: I was told you’re difficult. These were only words, Hillary. You know how it is. Remember, when you were campaigning against Barack Obama, and you said nasty things about him, and now you’re working for him.
HC: Well, this is different. You see—
AL: Or your husband. Remember what he said about that nice Jewish girl, ``I did not have—‘’
HC: Now, this is ridiculous—
AL: Why? I tell you, I loved his finger work, on television, ‘‘I did not blah blah . . .’’ So you see, Hillary, people say words and do the opposite.
HC: Does this mean that all your warmongering is only rhetoric, and when the time comes, you’ll be ready to make peace?
AL: Make peace with whom?
HC: With the Palestinians, of course.
AL: Oh, not so fast. First I want to make peace with the Dutch.
HC: The Dutch? But you don’t have a quarrel with the Dutch.
AL: Not yet, but give me a chance.
HC: I love that, Iwet. You’re impossible. By the way, about that vodka . . .
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April 17, 2009 | 1:44 pm
Posted by Uri Dromi
Mr Binyamin Netanyahu has just formed the largest government ever in the history of Israel: 30 ministers and seven deputy ministers. People have raised doubts about this government’s ability to function. A government spokesman agreed to address questions of the concerned public.
Q: Why so many ministers? Isn’t that just a pure waste?
A: On the contrary. This is a good use of taxpayer money. Had all these people not been ministers, they would be roaming around the Knesset, scheming against the government and trying to undermine it.
Q: But isn’t that the duty of the parliament — to limit the power of the government?
A: In normal democracies, yes — but not in Israel. In a country surrounded by so many enemies, the last thing you need is hassle from parliament.
Q: What will a government meeting look like? If every minister speaks for 10 minutes, it’s 300 minutes altogether, or five hours.
A: You really have to look at the bright side. When the first 15 ministers speak, for two and a half hours, the others can take a nap. Then they rotate. Hard working ministers need a rest.
Q: How will this government deal with the economic crisis?
A: That’s simple. It will take from the poor and give to the rich.
Q: You mean, the other way around?
A: Yes, of course, I’m sorry. It will give to the rich and take from the poor.
Q: What about the peace process?
A: What peace process?
Q: Between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
A: Oh, that peace process. This government will surely give it its fullest attention.
Q: But how? Half of the ministers are for a two-state solution, while the other half are totally against it.
A: Precisely. This government is fit to address the situation we are facing. Those favouring a peace move will deal with Fatah and Abu Mazen, while those opposing it will deal with Hamas.
Q: How the [expletive] is it going to work? This is nothing but a government of paralysis!
A: Calm down, sir. Sometimes, inaction is better than action. Look, for example, at the actions of the last government, in Lebanon and inGaza.
Q: What about Avigdor Lieberman?
A: What about him?
Q: Is he really the right person to represent Israel as Foreign Minister? Didn’t he threaten in the past to bomb the Aswan Dam? Didn’t he just declare the Annapolis agreement null and void? Isn’t he a bull in a china shop?
A: Don’t worry, we already took care of it. As we speak, the police are investigating him for money laundering.
Q: What’s the matter with you people? Every prime minister or minister you elect is eventually found to be a crook.
A: Not true. We know they are crooks before we elect them. This way we avoid the scandal later.
Q: Excuse me, but it just occurred to me, that the date this government was established…
A: Sorry, I really have to go…
Q: …No wait, wasn’t it April 1, All Fools’ Day?
A: Well, if you insist, yes, it was.
April 7, 2009 | 5:18 pm
Posted by Uri Dromi
Recently, stories reported by Israeli newspaper Haaretz and covered extensively in The New York Times revealed the darker side of operation ‘‘Cast Lead’’ in Gaza. Soldiers who participated in the fighting spoke about being trigger-happy, about not sticking to the ethical code of the Israeli Army when it came to sorting the Hamas terrorists from the local, uninvolved Palestinian population.
Anyone who believes in the justice of Israel defending itself should nevertheless call for an independent and thorough investigation. If any of what was reported is true, those responsible should be severely reprimanded.
Critics of Israel, however, wasted no time and accused Israel of committing war crimes. However, we have been through this before. Israel has faced rushed accusations based on versions of the story told by Palestinians that turn out to be only partially true—and more often than not are exposed as lies and fabrications.
In the first Lebanon War of 1982, Palestinian propagandists floated the rumor that Israel had killed 10,000 people. The world media picked it up and without any serious checking, repeated the lie. It took weeks to refute it, and still, the libel stuck.
And remember the ‘‘massacre’’ in Jenin in 2002? After clashes between Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) forces and Palestinian terrorists, the secretary-general of the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, said that thousands of Palestinians had been killed and buried in mass graves, or lay under houses destroyed in Jenin and Nablus.
However, according to Lorenzo Cremonesi, the correspondent for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in Jerusalem, who visited the camp on April 13, 2002, ‘‘it was all talk and nothing could be verified.’’ Cremonesi added: ‘‘At the end of that day, I wrote that the death toll was not more than 50 and most of them were combatants.’’ Two weeks later, Qadoura Mousa, director of Fatah for the northern West Bank, had to admit that the dead toll was 56.
Cremonesi, who is a personal friend of mine, has been a longtime critic of Israel’s conduct vis-a-vis the Palestinians. His report, therefore, guided by his sound journalistic professionalism, carries much weight.
And it was the same Cremonesi who in the wake of the recent clash in Gaza went there to get a first-hand impression. On Jan. 22 he reported that Hamas had vastly overstated the number of civilian deaths in Gaza. He went on to confirm Israel’s allegations that Hamas had used civilians as human shields and used ambulances and United Nations buildings in the fighting. Those who tried to drive the terrorists away in order to protect their families were beaten.
Israel, however, never gets a fair deal in such cases. I’m not even talking about the lack of context by which Israel is always portrayed as the aggressor, even if it is acting in justifiable self-defence. I’m talking about the ritual by which later retractions are barely noticed. Such was the case with the allegation that Israel had intentionally shelled a U.N.-run school in Gaza. Everybody memorized headlines such as the one in The Independent on Jan. 7 Massacre of innocent as UN school is shelled. How many remember, or even know, that Maxwell Gaylard, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, later admitted that the IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the school, and not on the school itself?
Why am I telling you all this? Because whenever I see or hear allegations of Israeli war crimes, I have a sense of déjà vu. These kind of accusations need to be thoroughly investigated, and this is exactly what the IDF is doing right now. Furthermore, our vibrant press will not tolerate any whitewash. Yet this is a slow and complex process that takes time. Will Israel get that time or, as usual, will it be sentenced again by a field tribunal of impatient, hostile public opinion?
March 17, 2009 | 5:33 pm
Posted by Uri Dromi
The concerns about Avigdor Lieberman becoming Israel’s next Foreign Minister remind me of a Jewish telegram: “Start worrying. Details to follow.”
Indeed, in an era when Israel’s image is not so shiny, the idea of someone who seems like a bully, who lives in a settlement and who uses strong language to express his radical views is not ideal.
But, looking carefully at his recent statements to the Washington Post and New York’s Jewish Weekly, Lieberman seems less scary on peace. Like other right-wingers before him — Sharon, Olmert and Livni, to name a few — he realises a Palestinian state is a fait accompli. He even hinted at giving up his home settlement for real peace.
It is his views about the Israeli Arabs, not his stand on the peace process, which should worry us. Six decades of conflict have put the Arab residents of Israel — 20 per cent of the state’s population — in a situation where, according to a painful saying, “my country is at war with my people”. If we were smart, we would have made them the happiest people in Israel, fully integrated and equal, thus turning them into our perfect ambassadors, conveying the message to other Arabs: “See what you get when you live in peace with the Jews”. Instead we have treated them unfairly and are surprised they are bitter.
Then along comes Lieberman with his past suggestions of a land swap and more recent calls for Israeli Arabs’ citizenship to be conditional on an oath of loyalty.
In such a complex situation, where national sentiments, cultural differences, social grievances, prejudice and fear create an explosive mix, the last thing we need is a bull in a china shop. And we Jews, of all people, with our history of being a persecuted minority, should be more sensitive than anybody else.
The good news is that he will not last long in his new job. Either police investigations about his money deals will force him to resign; or, most likely, a fight with Netanyahu. These two strange bedfellows can’t stand or trust each other. Until it happens, however, we’re in for some interesting times.
February 1, 2009 | 9:42 pm
Posted by Uri Dromi
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