Speaking Truth to Power

Varda Epstein,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Varda Epstein
Varda Meyers Epstein is an expatriate, third-generation born Pittsburgher (on her mother"s mother"s side), having made Aliyah in 1979. A blogger with twin interests in Middle East politics and parenting education, Varda serves as a Communications Writer at Kars4Kids, a nonprofit organization that underwrites educational initiatives for children, and blogs at the Kars4Kids blog, an educational blog for parents. A mother of 12 children, Varda began her writing career after the birth of her youngest child in 2000. Her work can be seen on many websites including Arutz Sheva, Huffington Post, the Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Press, Kveller, Aish.com, YNet, and Israellycool. She enjoys bragging to Pittsburghers (no one else understands) about her distinguished Pittsburgh lineage and writing legacy, as maternal niece of the late, great, one-of-a-kind Myron Cope, sports writer and color commentator for the Steelers....

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has been in the hot seat of late for criticizing the United States government. First there were Ya’alon’s off-the-record statements of March 11, in which he termed US Secretary of State John Kerry “obsessive and messianic” and said Kerry should just “take his Nobel Prize and leave us alone.”

Then there were Ya’alon’s comments in a speech at a Tel Aviv University event on March 17, in which he once again appeared to suffer from foot in mouth disease: “If you sit and wait at home, the terrorism will come again,” said Ya’alon. “Even if you hunker down, it will come.

This is a war of civilizations. If your image is feebleness, it doesn’t pay in the world. Nobody will replace the United States as global policeman. I hope the United States comes to its senses. If it doesn’t, it will challenge the world order, and the United States is the one that will suffer.”

Ya’alon was also reported to have said that America’s aid to Israel should be “seen in proportion,” and that aid to Israel is not a one-way street.

“It isn’t a favor America is doing, it’s in their interest,” he said. “They get quality intelligence and technology.

We invented [the] Iron Dome [anti-rocket system]. The wings of the F-35 stealth fighter – we invented. We invented the Arrow [missile system].”

The upshot is that within the space of one week Ya’alon had the entire hierarchy of the U.S. government royally, um, up in arms over what was perceived as criticism of Israel’s dear paternal ally, the United States of America. The first time around, State Department Spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Ya'alon's remarks were, "offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the U.S. is doing to support Israel's security needs."

"Secretary Kerry and his team, including General John Allen, have been working day and night to try and promote a secure peace for Israel because of the secretary's deep concern for Israel's future. To question Secretary Kerry's motives and distort his proposal is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally," said Psaki.

Both times, Israel’s Defense Minister was forced to apologize for saying what he said, though it was only the truth: what most Israelis think and feel about America.

Meantime, how often is it we in Israel have heard talking heads in Washington and elsewhere pontificate that the “settlements are unhelpful” (Google the phrase and see how enduring that statement is since at least 1981 up to the present time) or heard rumors that senior officials are seeking to replace Israeli leaders?

Why is it that the U.S. takes the position that it is within its rights to dictate Israeli policy while Israel, supposedly an ally of the U.S., is not allowed to comment on U.S. policy?

You could just hear Psaki’s foot tapping when reading this March 21st statement,

“We still have remaining concerns about Ya’alon’s pattern of behavior. I think we clearly expressed our displeasure by his offensive comments and an apology would be a natural next step.”


(photo credit: Varda Epstein)

Here is the problem with this attitude that criticism can only come from the U.S. to Israel and not the other way around: it trickles down to U.S. citizens. How many times have I been lectured on a Facebook thread about not being suitably grateful to America or to President Obama for all their beneficence and benevolence, vis-à-vis the Jewish State? How many times have I been forced to repeat the following ideas?

  • •    U.S. aid to Israel must be spent in the U.S.
  • •    The aid to Israel comprises only 3% of Israel’s defense budget
  • •    Israel improves the U.S. defense materiel it receives and then trains Americans in the use of same

How many times have I been forced to explain the double standards in place here? How the U.S. forces Israel to release terrorists from prison and then is up in arms when President Karzai of Afghanistan does exactly the same thing. How many times do I have to explain that there is no good reason for Pollard to be incarcerated for giving an ally (Israel), information that the U.S. was bound by agreement to provide to that ally freely?

Enough of the paternalistic attitude. Israelis are fed up. We feel like geese with our feet tacked to the floor being force-fed American peace agreements so someone somewhere else can eventually eat foie gras.

It sickens us as proud Israelis and makes us do a slow burn.

What we want now is some respect. We’ve built an amazing country in an impressively short period of time. We deserve recognition and respect. And we reserve the right to tell off our ally when it’s totally off-base, as it so often is these days.

When Ya’alon speaks the truth, and I hope he will continue to do so, wouldn’t it be healthier for the U.S. to take a look at what he says and analyze these statements for the truths they contain instead of getting bent all out of joint over a wise man speaking his thoughts and feelings? The U.S. is, unfortunately, not the all-powerful machine it thinks it still is. And Israel, at this stage in time, should not have to kowtow to a lot of hot air and umbrage.