Avigdor Lieberman, the new Israeli foreign minister
The Associated Press called it a "scathing critique of Mideast peace efforts" that had diplomats "cringing," while other reports said Lieberman had "dropped a political bombshell," "sparked an uproar," "repudiated a key accord," and "reinforced fears." The New York Times pronounced Lieberman's remarks "blunt and belligerent," describing the foreign minister as a "hawkish nationalist" who is "not known for diplomacy" and heads an "ultranationalist" party that is "seen by many as racist." Headlines summed up Lieberman's debut as an attack on peacemaking: "Lieberman dashes peace hopes," "Israeli official hits peace efforts," "Lieberman dumps peace deal."
But the headlines were wrong, as anyone can ascertain by reading Lieberman's short address. Far from disparaging peace, Israel's new foreign minister called for pursuing it with the respect and realism it deserves. And far from "dumping" agreements entered into by his predecessors, he explicitly committed himself to upholding the Roadmap -- a step-by-step blueprint to a "two-state solution" adopted by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the international Quartet (the United States, the United Nations, Russia, and the European Union) in 2003.
"I voted against the Roadmap," Lieberman acknowledged, but it was "approved by the Cabinet and by the Security Council" and is therefore "a binding resolution and it binds this government as well." However, he insisted, it must be implemented "exactly as written" and "in full." The Road Map imposes specific obligations that the Palestinians must meet prior to achieving statehood -- above all, an unequivocal end to violence, terrorism, and incitement against the Jewish state -- and Israel will not agree to waive them in order to negotiate a final settlement.
If Lieberman is as good as his word -- and if he is backed up by Benjamin Netanyahu, the new prime minister -- we may finally see an end to Israel's fruitless attempts to buy peace with ever-more-desperate concessions and retreats. Under Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, Israel surrendered the entire Gaza Strip, released hundreds of terrorists from prison, expelled thousands of Jews from their homes, and even offered to divide Jerusalem with the Palestinian Authority. "But none of these far-reaching measures have brought peace," said Lieberman. "To the contrary." The steeper the price Israel has been willing to pay for peace, the more it has been repaid with violence: suicide bombings, rocket attacks, kidnapped and murdered soldiers, and wars with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
It is time, Lieberman is saying, for Israel to stop genuflecting to a feckless and counterproductive "peace process" and to return instead to the pre-Oslo policy of deterrence. "The fact that we say the word 'peace' 20 times a day will not bring peace any closer," he noted. It only makes Israel seem weak and irresolute, encouraging its enemies not to halt their murderous jihad, but to redouble it. Sixteen years of appeasement have left Israel more demonized and isolated than ever, the foreign minister observed. And when was Israel most admired in the world? "After the victory of the Six Day War," when no one doubted the Jewish state's audacity or resolve.
President Washington: "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace"
"If you want peace, prepare for war," Lieberman declared. That belief may offend the smart set and leave diplomats "cringing," but Israel's new foreign minister is scarcely the first to express it. "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace," affirmed President George Washington in his first address to Congress in 1790. Nearly two centuries later, Ronald Reagan told the world much the same thing. "Peace is made by the fact of strength," said the leader who would go on to win the Cold War. "Peace is lost when such strength disappears -- or, just as bad, is seen by an adversary as disappearing."
Perhaps the world would more clearly understand the nature of Israel's adversary if the media weren't forever fanning moral outrage at the Mideast's only bulwark of freedom and democracy.
In recent weeks, the Palestinian Authority has warned Arabs that it is "high treason" punishable by death to sell homes or property to Jews in Jerusalem; shut down a Palestinian youth orchestra and arrested its founder because the ensemble played for a group of elderly Israeli Holocaust survivors; and celebrated the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel's history -- a PLO bus hijacking that left 38 civilians dead -- with a TV special extolling the massacre. On Thursday, after a Palestinian terrorist used an axe to murder a 13-year-old Jewish boy, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- a wing of the supposedly "moderate" Fatah party -- issued a statement claiming responsibility.
There is no appeasing such hatred, and demonizing those who say so will not change that fact. "If you want peace, prepare for war." How refreshing, at last, to hear an Israeli leader say so.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)