May 25, 2024
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Joe Lieberman’s Final Gift to the Jewish Community

Senator Joseph Lieberman was well known as a staunch supporter of Israel, even crossing party lines on occasion when he felt that certain legislation was not in Israel’s best interest.

However, what some people may not realize is that only hours before his fatal fall, he had put his final edits on a statement that he and Alan Dershowitz were writing together about Israel, the upcoming presidential election and the future of the Democratic party.

The statement was a stern message to the Biden campaign that it could no longer guarantee pro-Israel Jewish voters would vote Democrat if it turned against Israel.

Here is the statement, as edited by Lieberman, on March 26, the day before he died:

“We all want to see support for Israel in the U.S. remain bipartisan, which is why we appreciated President Biden’s statements in the wake of the October 7th Hamas barbarisms. We believe that Israel must be allowed to achieve its legitimate goal of disabling Hamas from keeping its promise of repeating the massacres of October 7th.

“More recently however we have become concerned about what appears to be a weakening of support for Israel by President Biden, Vice President Harris and some other leading Democrats. We are especially concerned about the possibility that some of this weakening may be influenced by domestic political fears of losing electoral support from anti-Israel voters who have threatened to stay home unless the Biden administration pulls away from Israel. There appears to be too little concern about losing the support of pro-Israel voters.

“We are here to say that you can no longer simply count on our vote just because Jews traditionally have voted Democratic. We are here to say you must earn our vote. We want to continue to support Democratic candidates, but you need to know that if you abandon Israel in order to garner the support of anti-Israel extremists within the Democratic Party, it will be difficult for us to support Democrats who are on the ballot this November. Pro-Israel voters have alternatives to simply staying home. None of us can or will vote for any candidate who supports cutting military support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. So please, do the right thing. Do not abandon Israel and its time of great need. And we will not abandon you.”

The statement was intended to be sent to the White House and distributed among pro-Israel Democrats in the Senate and Congress. Its goal was to make it clear that if political considerations were changing the administration’s position toward Israel, there would be a political price to pay.

Lieberman strongly believed that support for Israel should be a bipartisan issue, and that morally it was the right thing for America to do. Dershowitz said that those who were working with Lieberman to send this message to the president—and other prominent Democrats—will continue this campaign in his memory.

It will be interesting to see how the missile and drone attacks by Iran against Israel will be viewed by the Biden administration … and whether this might shift the administration’s position to become more supportive of Israel at this time of need.

I’ve also been wondering what Lieberman’s reaction to Iran’s attack against Israel would have been, had he been alive.

The late senator, as we know from past statements that he made, was one of the fiercest critics of Iran, breaking with his party on its support of a nuclear deal and praising the Trump administration in 2020 when it ordered the assassination of Major General Qasem Soleimani, a man who was responsible for murdering hundreds of Americans and who had plans to kill thousands more.

For those who might not remember, Soleimani oversaw three camps in Iran where his elite forces trained and equipped Iraqi militants. According to the U.S. government, these fighters killed more than 600 American soldiers since 2003. Within Iran, Soleimani’s militants worked with the leader of Iran to suppress freedom and economic opportunity, jail dissident politicians and journalists, and kill protesters in the streets.

Lieberman desperately tried to convince Democrats to make the issue of Iran a bipartisan issue. Unfortunately, in the last few years since President Biden has been in office, the United States has relaxed its position on Iran. It falsely believed that a tougher attitude against Iran might provoke a more violent response from the Iranian government.

I think the recent attack against Israel makes it very clear that Lieberman was correct on this issue. As he said, “If we allow fear of a self-declared enemy like Iran to dictate our actions, we will only encourage them to come after us and our allies more aggressively.”

I’m certainly no fan of former President Trump. However, to his credit, Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement, applied maximum economic pressure on Iran, and demonstrated a willingness to respond with military force to Iran’s provocations. His goal was to bring the Iranian government back into negotiations to end its nuclear weapons program and rejoin the world’s economy.

Thank God, 99% of the missiles and drones that were fired towards Israel by Iran last weekend were intercepted by Israel, with virtually no damage or injuries. But that doesn’t negate the fact that Iran wants to eradicate Israel from the Middle East map. It is not only responsible for the missiles it shot from its territory; it is also the main source of funding for the weapons used in the terror attacks by both Hamas and Hezbollah.

I think if Lieberman were alive today, he would once again be calling for bipartisan agreement against Iran, in addition to demanding bipartisan support for Israel. In his eyes, there were certain moral issues that transcend politics and called for all legislators—Democrats and Republicans—to join together.

In the last letter he composed to Democratic leaders, he expressed that opinion eloquently—and left the Jewish community a final gift that we should never forget.


Michael Feldstein, who lives in Stamford, is the author of “Meet Me in the Middle” (meet-me-in-the-middle-book.com), a collection of essays on contemporary Jewish life. He can be reached at [email protected].

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