Thank you, Joe
Every night I find time to check my personal email account, the one that my close friends use to keep in touch, skipping over the human ring surrounding us elected officials. This week a message immediately caught my eye. It was from an old friend in Washington, Senator Joe Lieberman. I guessed that Joe would be telling me, as usual, about an upcoming trip to Israel. But it was about his retiring from the Senate and from politics. Although I have long been aware of his deliberations about continuing his protracted political career, I reacted to his message with surprise tinged with sorrow.
Joe is a friend, but also a symbol. Senator Joe Lieberman is a shining example of the Jewish community’s integration in and contribution to American society, and its vital, meaningful role in nurturing and strengthening the special relationship between Israel and the US. He was elected to the Senate on the Democratic ticket 24 years ago, devoting those years to the United States’ national security. Lieberman in his wisdom recognized that a strong Israel is one of the components of US power. So he worked tirelessly to build up the broad bipartisan support that Israel enjoys in Congress and among the American public. Joe, who made history by being the first Jew ever to run for president, did this without downplaying his Jewishness – he observes the commandments – and, of course, without downplaying his support for Israel.
My work ties with him started back when I was political advisor for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; and when I got to Washington as the Israeli ambassador, they developed into a personal friendship between us and our families. We used to spend many Friday evenings together, talking about skiing, politics and the Iranian threat all at once. Lieberman knew how to form excellent ties with the top political and security figures in Israel, and also how to relate to wide sectors of the Israeli public. He and his wife Hadassah visit Israel often; and their daughter Hana, was educated here in Israel.
This post is too short to list all of his activities on behalf of US-Israel relations, some of them public knowledge and some still confidential. But there is no doubt about it – the people of Israel owes him a great deal for helping maintain and strengthen Israel’s qualitative military advantage in the region, for promoting Israel’s political and security interests, and for boosting Israel’s image in the world. In this context I must emphasize that Lieberman was one of the first people to identify the inherent danger of the Iranian regime and its nuclear policy. He was part of a small group of American legislators who vigorously led important measures to block Iran’s nuclear capability.
And now Lieberman is retiring from political life. His absence will be sorely felt in the American Senate and we will miss his support, but one thing is clear: even outside the Senate, we can be sure that Lieberman will continue contributing and working towards a safer, more democratic, and more moral world.
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