ZOA Criticizes President Bush’s Interference In Internal Israeli Political Process
January 15, 2008

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized President George W. Bush’s intervention last week in Israel’s internal political process by directly approaching the leaders of two major coalition parties in the Olmert government, Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Shas chairman Eli Yishai, and urging them to remain within the Olmert government in order to keep it in office. Following threats from both Lieberman and Yishai to leave the government if it proceeds to discuss core issues with the Palestinian Authority, President Bush spoke directly to both men, urging them to preserve the government during a dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem last week, saying, “Take care of Olmert, so he will stay in power. He’s a strong leader” (Jerusalem Post, January 14, 2008).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We are opposed to this intervention by President Bush into the internal Israeli political process. It is an axiom of diplomatic protocol and respect for the sovereignty of fellow democratic nations that political leaders of one country rigorously refrain from expressing support or opposition for a political leader or party in another country. One can only imagine how Americans would feel if the leader of another democracy came here to urge political support or opposition towards the incumbent president. It would be seen as interference in the internal political affairs of the United States. Precisely the same considerations apply in this case where President Bush has urged coalition partners in the Israeli government to maintain that government in office.

“We would be equally concerned if, for example, a Likud-led Israeli government received this kind of inappropriate support from the President. The fact is that such direct interference by a foreign leader in Israel’s internal affairs is wrong under any circumstances, irrespective of the Israeli government’s political complexion. It is only for Israelis to decide which parties form government, without external interference from other governments. Whatever the President’s views, he should have adhered to the long-standing convention of abstaining from all interference or even the appearance of interference in a fellow democracy’s internal affairs.”

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