President Obama needs our support.
According to the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Mr. Sarkozy told Mr. Netanyahu that he should remake his government so that he, Ms. Livni and the defense minister, Ehud Barak, could produce historic breakthroughs for Middle East peace.
He was reported to have said, "I’ve always received Israeli foreign ministers. I met with Tzipi Livni in the Élysée Palace, but with that one I simply can’t meet. I’m telling you, you need to get rid of that man. Get him out of the government and bring in Livni. With her and with Barak you can make history."
The paper said Mr. Netanyahu replied: "No need to exaggerate. Lieberman is a very nice person, and in private conversations he speaks differently."
Mr. Sarkozy was reported to have replied, "In private conversations, Jean-Marie Le Pen is also a nice person."
Sarkozy’s comparison of Lieberman to the odious Le Pen, notorious for many things including Holocaust denial, should particularly sting the supporters of Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu. They are also quite apt. Lieberman began his political career in the notorious Kach party, the political party of terrorist Meir Kahane. Kach was banned from the Knesset and eventually outlawed in Israel after a charter member of Kahane’s US-based Jewish Defense League, Baruch Goldstein, killed thirty-nine Palestinians in the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre . While Lieberman’s latest incarnation as the head of Yisrael Beiteinu stops short of the barbarism of Kach, it does so just barely, with Lieberman suggesting that Israel drown Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea in the Knesset and running on a campaign of forcing Israeli Arabs to sign loyalty oaths.
Today, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz ran an editorial entitled "Sarkozy is right".
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he replace Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman exposes a sad truth: At present Israel does not have a functioning foreign minister. The international community refuses to speak to a politician who is considered racist in the wake of the campaign conducted by his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, against Arab citizens during the recent Knesset election campaign. There is not and cannot be any other way to interpret Sarkozy's comparison between Lieberman and far-right French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen...
...It is more important to focus on the main thing, which is the ongoing damage to Israel's diplomatic interests resulting from Lieberman's tenure in the Foreign Ministry. Sarkozy was not the first to express dissatisfaction with the fact that the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu was elevated to the top of Israel's diplomatic pyramid.
The Arab countries refuse to speak to Lieberman because of his threats and the rude things he said in the past about Egypt and its president.
When Lieberman was recently invited to Washington, the U.S. administration expressed its dissatisfaction with him by demonstrating a preferential attitude toward Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was invited to meet with President Barack Obama. Lieberman's predecessors in the Foreign Ministry, Tzipi Livni (Kadima) and Silvan Shalom (Likud), were also invited to such meetings with the president during their visits to Washington. He was not.
While it has not been widely reported in the United States, the editorial points out that right now, President Obama is part of a united front with leaders around the world, letting Israel know that it is not acceptable that a violent bigot be the foreign face of an allied government. The editorial is also evidence that this united front is influencing opinion in Israel, and therefore can succeed. While it is improper for President Obama to state publicly that he agrees with Sarkozy, he should continue, through his actions, to make it clear that Lieberman will not be able to conduct diplomacy on behalf of Israel as have former Foreign Ministers.
It is probable, of course, that due to the Sarkozy comments, pressure from those who support the far-right of Israeli politics will be brought to bear on President Obama to attempt to force him to adopt a more tolerant position towards Lieberman’s bigotry. Therefore, respectfully, I’m asking that you take a moment to contact the White House to let them know that you support the continued refusal to grant a meeting between President Obama and Avigdor Lieberman, and that you hope he will express agreement with Sarkozy privately to Netanyahu.