Rabbi Hillel in Pirkey Avot says: “In a place where there is no human being, endeavor to be one.” In other words, when all around you are losing their heads be a mensch and don’t lose yours. That fits perfectly the case of Nadav Tamir, Israeli consul general in Boston, who had the chutzpah to write a memo to his foreign ministry bosses telling them that it was Israel that was engaging in provocative behavior regarding the settlement freeze and that this threatened the U.S.-Israel relationship:
The Foreign Ministry on Saturday summoned for consultation a senior Israeli diplomat who in a confidential memo criticized the government for harming ties with the U.S. last week. A ministry statement said that Israel’s consul-general in Boston, Nadav Tamir, would arrive in Jerusalem next week to give a clarification to the ministry’s director-general.
The memo, which was addressed to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, stressed that the public spat with the U.S. over the issue of a settlements freeze has alienated a significant number of American Jewish supporters. Tamir, a veteran well respected diplomat, wrote the memo under the heading “melancholy thoughts on Israel-U.S. relations.” Tamir’s missive is considered unusual given the blunt, pointed nature of the criticism against the premier’s policies.
“The manner in which we are conducting relations with the American administration is causing strategic damage to Israel,” Tamir wrote. “The distance between us and the U.S. administration has clear consequences for Israeli deterrence.”
“There are American and Israeli political elements who oppose Obama on an ideological basis…who are ready to sacrifice the special relationship…for the sake of their own political agendas,” the consul general in Boston wrote.
“There has always been a discrepancy in the approaches of both states [on the issue of settlements], but there was always a level of coordination between the governments,” Tamir wrote. “Nowadays, there is a sense in the United States that Obama is forced to deal with the obduracy of the governments in Iran, North Korea, and Israel.”
“The administration is making an effort to lower the profile of the disagreements, and yet it is [Israel] that is the source which is highlighting the differences,” Tamir wrote.
Tamir accused Netanyahu of endangering American Jewish backing for Israel by publicly sparring with the Obama administration over construction of Jewish housing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
All I can say is thank God for an honest man amidst a nest of vipers. And of course, for his honesty he will end his career in obscurity or disgrace. [UPDATE: This Haaretz story reveals that Lieberman has “suggested” that Tamir resign, which isn’t surprising considering how little Lieberman likes to hear news not to his liking.] Neither Lieberman nor his director general, Danny Ayalon, can have any sympathy for a diplomat with such dissident views. This government wants only yes-men. In fact, it’s amazing that Tamir could’ve survived this long under this government. My guess is that he is either near retirement or was a Labor appointee who wanted to make a statement before leaving his position. But regardless, this took guts and give the man credit. Israel needs more like Tamir and less like the right-wing opportunists, Lieberman or Bibi. Unfortunately, it will get more like Bibi and less like Tamir.
Tamir is voicing views that many of us progressive Jewish bloggers have been voicing since Obama was elected. We have it right and the Israeli government has it wrong. American Jews do not support Bibi’s obduracy regardless of what Abe Foxman or Malcolm Hoenlein tells the Israeli premier. There is a long-due reckoning with Israel over the settlements. Israel can pay now at a reasonable price and with a reasonably sympathetic U.S. president; or it can pay later at a much higher price in blood and opprobrium. Tamir is saying to pay now and get the deal done while a deal can be made. His superiors think they can play the old Israeli game of waiting out the enemy till administrations change or popular opinion defangs the opponent. This is a high stakes gamble and one that very well could end in Israel losing big at the craps table.