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The Middle East:Clash of Civilizations Israel Relies on Itself

Author:  Lieberman Avigdor

Avigdor Lieberman

Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs
Interviewed by the Editors-in-Chief of
“Herald of Europe” (UK) - Michael Borshchevsky
and “Vestnik Evropy” (Russia) - Victor Yaroshenko


Introductory words from the Editors on the history of “Vestnik Evropy magazine”. It was founded by N.M.Karamzin 208 years ago – and “Herald of Europe magazine” was established in 2004 as a forum for European intellectuals examining European politics, culture and development and theorizing on the essence of Europe, its role in the world and European values.

After the introduction the Editors specify the main objective of the interview – to hear a philosopho-historical rather than immediate review of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Mr. Lieberman, leader of the party “Israel is Our Home”.

“V&H”: Mr. Minister, when reviewing the world media on the situation in Israel, Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, there is a sense that the position of the media in this respect is one-sided, or even biased. As a result of this propaganda, a large part of the European community sees Israel as a source of injustice, a country with an overall negative image applying disproportionate violence. How would you explain that? Mr. A.Lieberman: The answer to this question will probably take half of our time…This is a very important question and it is vital to list the causes that led to the current situation correctly: The conflict between moral values and values measured in banknotes is centuries-old; people often prefer amassing wealth to moral values.  This is the root of the main problem facing Israel – a small Jewish State with the population of 7,5 million people being opposed by the fifty seven Islamic States with the population of 1,5 billion people. 

Our territory is 21 thousand square kilometres, whereas they occupy more than 63-64 million square  kilometres; in addition to that, Member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference control 70 percent of all energy resources on Earth. A State always acts in its own interest (as Charles De Gaule put it: “France does not have friends, only interests”). Among the politicians worldwide there are many quite decent, nice and very sensible people. However, some of them wish to be elected the Secretary General of the UN, others hope to become let’s say the Director-General of UNESCO or take a high post within the human rights movement or one of the international sports associations and so on. But politicians will count on the fact that there are 57 voices from one side, and only one from us, which is “a voice in the wilderness”. Of course people make a very predictable choice (and it is not in the favor of Israel). We also need to take account of the global dependency on energy resources, world competition, and endless attempts to conquer new trade areas.

“V&H”: There is an Anti-Israel attitude, which grows even amid a general increase of anti-Islamic trends in Europe. Not long ago the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, giving a speech in New York, in October 2010 used a quote from the then president of Harvard University Lawrence Summers: “Anti-Semitism was traditionally considered to be the attribute of uneducated right-wing populists, however today anti-Israel trends are common among progressive intellectuals”. According to Murdoch, modern anti-Semitism enjoys the support of both the top and the bottom echelons of the European society. What do you think is the reason for this? What is the root cause of this growing emotional isolation of Israel in the world?

A.L.: Yes, today’s anti-Semite is disguised as a concerned opponent of Israel, and there are many reasons for that.

You (addressing Prof. Borshchevsky) live in London, where there is a strong Israeli embassy with a team of working professionals, but this is the only mission of Israel in London restricted by its budget, and the multiple rules and regulations of a civilized State. At the same time, London is home to twenty-three Muslim embassies constrained by few moral or budget boundaries. If you switch on any of the world’s news channels (I have specifically watched the kind of adverts they are showing and who the sponsors are), we will see that the majority of sponsors are from the Persian Gulf States and the Muslim World. It goes without saying that this fact sets the tone for covering events in the Middle East. To this factor you may add the vast Muslim community for example in the UK, which far outnumbers the Jewish community, and all these people constitute the body of voters!

“V&H”: In France, for instance, Muslim voters account for 16% of the electorate – this is already a very substantial and maybe even a deciding figure…

A.L.: Do you know what is the most popular name for a new baby in Britain this year?

“V&H”: John, isn’t it?

A.L.: It’s Mohammed. All the factors mentioned earlier create a constant force field inducing people to change their values and behavior. Within this field they will choose banknotes over moral values, for money is part of society’s scale of values. The outcome is obvious.

“V&H”: Anti-Semitism is not always trying to camouflage itself, but rather tends to express itself in a provocatively open manner, just as the leaders of modern Iran openly declare the need to liquidate Israel. Israel today is the only country which urges the world to take firm steps aimed at eliminating the danger of nuclear weapons appearing in Iran. Many countries would breathe freely if Israel took the responsibility for getting rid of this pain in the neck for them.

Our question is whether Israel is ready to face the Iranian conflict on its own? 

A.L.: Today every sensible human being can tell good from evil. Iran claims that its only concern is “the atom for peace”. Look at its vast gas and oil reserves; we can take it for granted that the “atom for peace” is going to be replaced by the equally “peaceful” long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles! The Iranian threat today is like German Nazism in 1930’s Europe. When Hitler came to power, people believed that once he was in charge of the entire country, he would have no choice but to depart from radicalism. Nevertheless, horrendous anti-Jewish laws followed. When Czechoslovakia appeared on the agenda, the western world was reluctant to unfold another world war to protect Czechoslovakia. Slogans were heard along the lines of “Let’s appease Hitler, ratify the Munich Agreement”, and the infamous statement by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, “Peace for our time”. Eventually, the international community pressured Czechoslovakia, while the threat from Nazi Germany was dismissed. We are all well aware of the outcome of this kind of politics. The same thing is happening now as a result of another appeasement policy. In the literal sense, history always repeats itself in a circular fashion. Israel urges the world to wake up. However, this is “a voice in the wilderness”. Look, Iran presents an appalling global threat which is in essence not war-related, but moral. This is the clash of moral principles, the moral codes of civilization if you like. Iran preaches a completely different set of moral values. The main danger here is not only military gambling – though it does have some weight – but rather the brainwashing, injections of blind hatred and primitive concepts.  We must take their words and actions seriously, just as the words of Hitler should have been originally taken. The same serious attention must be given to the “Islamic Revolution”. Over the last thirty years the Islamic revolutionists have contaminated the world. Just like other revolutionists they export their “Islamic Revolution”. We can see the current state of affairs in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Indonesia… “The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution”, emissaries, ayatollahs, mullahs and others take an active part in the creation of the Middle Eastern terrorist movements of Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others. Modern Iran is primarily a threat to the world community. Not to Israel. This threat first of all jeopardizes the order established in the Muslim World itself. The greatest conflict in the Middle East today is not the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and not even the conflict between Israel and the Arab World; it is the war within the Muslim World itself.  The “Islamic Revolution” is also being exported to Europe, Africa, Russia and the US. We observe ships loaded with Iranian weapons suddenly appearing in Nigeria. We see terrorist attacks in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Bali.  Iran employs Israel as a propaganda tool and a bogeyman aimed at uniting its acolytes and inciting peoples.  But the real goal is something completely different.

“V&H”: What could be Iran’s first steps after acquiring nuclear weapons?  

A.L.: We have invested much time in developing a thorough analytical document, which among others includes forecast scenarios. An attack on Israel is not going to be Iran’s first step. First of all it will invade the Persian Gulf countries. For Iran understands that the key to control over energy sources, the world economy, and consequently the world community is there. Saddam Hussein had a similar aim when invading Kuwait. Their next goal is the overthrow of the dynasty in Saudi Arabia. And only then might the ayatollahs remember Israel.   However, the kindling of hatred towards Israel continues: – the calls to liquidate it, the cynical denial of the Holocaust (which should be prosecuted by law in some European States, but nobody in reality tries to apply these laws) – these are the primitive agitation techniques aimed at uniting the Muslim people. Iran tries by all means to delay negotiations so as to buy the time necessary to obtain the technologies and produce the required amount of enriched uranium to develop nuclear weapons. Nobody in the world doubts that. However, human hypocrisy knows no limits.  At every vote in the UN General Assembly, Israel is stigmatized for violating human rights and trampling on democratic principles. And who are the ones blaming the only democratic country in the Middle East? The most odious regimes! Who votes against us? North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe. But when the civilized countries get involved, the whole thing turns into the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. Eugene Ionesco in the prime of his career could not have imagined the extent to which “rhinoceroses” would be present in the modern world. 

“V&H”: You have drawn a very interesting analogy with the agreement made in Munich, when Europe had effectively betrayed European and world Jewry. My question is: to what extent do the people of the State of Israel today differ from the isolated European Jews, who grew up in shtetls and had a very closed-up way of life preserving traditions of submission, adaptation and obedience through centuries….  

Israel is after all more than sixty years old and this means a new historic community of people (as it was called in the Soviet time), “the people of Israel”. These people possess a different mentality, a different mindset, including the part of the Israeli population that originated from Europe. In your view, can the people of modern Israel and people who support the State of Israel all over the world and understand its role, permit the second Holocaust?

A.L.: In the last two years I have been meeting with many of the world leaders, including the leaders of the western, central, and eastern Europe.

In face-to-face dialogue they all agree and express understanding. Unfortunately, a new wave of populism has swept the world. The West is tired. But when it comes down to action, everybody prefers to protect their own interests.

Today the energies of NATO and the European Union are stretched because of the problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Cyprus. The politicians of each country are concerned with their internal public opinion, for every one of them wishes to be elected and re-elected and nobody wishes to put his or her career at risk for the sake of some abstract moral principles. Friendship with Israel or even an objective position towards it does not offer political dividends in the modern world. Our time is rich in “Chamberlains” and poor in “Churchills”. The current situation is fundamentally different from the pre-war situation when the State of Israel was non-existent. Today it exists and its people are willing to stand up for their truth. We are not looking for adventures or confrontations, we do not want to provoke anybody, but we will fight to the end. Although Israel is small, Jerusalem leaves no room for retreat.

We can only rely on ourselves! ECONOMY AND SECURITY

“V&H”: On several occasions you have expressed a view which became the focus of public attention. You have said that a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is not possible at the moment; what could happen instead is a temporary, but long-term agreement.

A.L.: We call it a long-term interim agreement.

“V&H”: What are the key points of the agreement you could try to reach and establish and for how long?

A.L.: I would like to go back to the initial premise. Relations between participants in the international arena always unfold in three dimensions: politics, economics and security. Our conflict is not so much a rational one that could be resolved, as it is emotional and hence irrational.

Such matters like the division of Jerusalem, the issue of refugees, the recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, settlements – are extremely emotional for both parties, which are not ready to approach them in any radical way. This is why we’ve got to put the political dimension aside until the right time arrives; nevertheless, we have a good chance of establishing successful cooperation over matters concerning security and economy. Since the new government came to power in Israel, we have tangible results and figures that cannot be dismissed.

…Economic growth in the Palestinian Authority in the last 18 months reached almost 10 percent. In one of his recent speeches Tony Blair said that the economic progress PA has made in the last 18 months is extraordinary. The situation in the security sector is fully under control. This is why today we need to focus on the sphere of economy and security. These spheres have many different aspects; let’s take for instance the security situation in Israel and the neighboring countries. In spite of all the political contradictions, there have been almost no clashes, victims or terrorist attacks. And what happened in neighboring Iraq in the last month? Hundreds, thousands of casualties, people taken hostage in the Catholic Church, a series of explosions in Bagdad. Take the situation in Yemen, in Sudan which is on the edge of civil war and country separation; take the situation in Lebanon, in Pakistan… In contrast to all this, Israel causes indignation and is criticised for not having extended the self-imposed moratorium on civil construction, just think about it. Does this not indicate a complete inability of the international community to face global-scale problems? Obviously, it is easy to put pressure on Israel – the only democratic oasis in a sea of tyranny and dictatorship, and because this pressure influences our voters and these voters in their turn influence their politicians.  This is the same old classical anti-Semitism, which has merely evolved and put on a seemingly more respectable mask of anti-Israelism. The most popular intercontinental slogan has changed as well, now it says: “Scold Israel, save the international community!”.


A.L.: I would like to continue if I may. It is important to understand that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accounts for less than two percent of all conflicts in the Middle East. It is a big lie that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being promoted as the heart of Middle-Eastern tension. Far from it! Let’s refresh our memory: Iran-Iraq war, more than one million dead and injured;

Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the first Persian Gulf war;
Civil wars in Algeria and Tunisia;
Genocide in Darfur and Sudan;
Second Gulf war and then Saddam’s abdication;
War in Afghanistan.
And finally today’s situation with Iraq…

Our problems do not even account for two percent of all Middle-Eastern conflicts, and even these figures tend to decrease. If it had not been for Iran’s influence and  the external injection of Hamas, we could have made a much more significant economic and social progress at the Palestinian territories. Let us turn to history: for eighteen years the Arab World controlled the entire territory of Judaea and Samaria, from 1949 till 1967, until the beginning of the Six-Day War. The Arab World could have created the Palestinian State, but no such attempt was made. Let us take a look at a broader picture – the world community is incapable of solving even the North Korea problems – the most isolated state in the world – let alone the problems at the Middle East and other global conflicts. Is our situation comparable to the one in Afghanistan? In Pakistan? In Zimbabwe?  I wish to stress another aspect – the majority of global conflicts are insoluble in principle. These are long-standing conflicts, lasting for centuries, emotional and irrational in nature.

“V&H”: But the majority of the civilized states have managed to learn the rules of living in the context of fundamental contradictions.

A.L.: They have even coined the term – “peaceful coexistence”. This is not too bad given that the alternative is mutual destruction. Take a look at the clashes between Russia and Japan, specifically Japan’s claims on the Kuril Islands. This is a serious political dispute. But both states have embassies; they maintain civilized relations; neither of the parties threatens another. Or take Britain and Argentina and their frozen conflict around the Falkland Islands (Malvinas Islands). Or the Northern Cyprus problem, or many others all over the world… This is why I suggest we depart from political utopias and proceed to real possibilities. Let’s continue our coexistence, let’s continue cooperation in the areas of security and economy. And the political solutions will come, probably not now and not tomorrow or even the day after…

“V&H”: Your propositions may be translated as follows: let’s agree on the matters on which we can reach at least some agreement, for example security matters. In a way keep each rival in its own corner of the boxing arena… Is the separation barrier constructed by Israel efficient?

A.L.: The barrier did fulfill its purpose; the number of trespassing incidents and terrorist attacks has significantly decreased. At the moment we have started the construction of a 266 km long anti-terrorism barrier equipped with state-of-the-art alarm systems between Israel and Egyptian Sinai. The main purpose of the barrier is protection from illegal immigrants coming from the South. Bedouins escort them through the desert and make good money. The number of trespasses increase every year; this month more than a thousand refugees entered Israel. But we cannot send them back; for Israel this is already a significant problem. Egypt is also constructing a barrier that would protect it from Gaza. The barrier is not the issue here. The world refuses to accept the main diagnosis. When the diagnosis is wrong, there is no chance to prescribe the correct treatment and cure the illness. The world refuses to face the truth.


“V&H”: Would you agree to the following proposition: the period of the Cold War that started in late 1940-s and lasted for almost half a century must be viewed as a positive experience as it has created balance of forces and prevented military war?

A.L.: Yes, it created conditions for a unique experience of COEXISTENCE, when the opposing sides were more or less able to maintain economic relations, to advance political and cultural ties and generally promote mutual understanding. The threat of mutual liquidation brought people to recognize the existence of rivals, in spite of the fact that political conflicts were entering quite a critical phase. (The Berlin Wall, Cuba, Czechoslovakia)… However, back then the opposition was built around the political systems within one civilization…Whereas, the main problem of the modern world is the clash of two civilizations. After the end of the Cold War the Western World did not reform, did not recognize its historical natural enemy, did not switch to a new worldview. The attack of 9.11 reached its target – it deeply traumatized the Western identity and made it sink into fear, denying it the chance of progressing. Political behavior gets more and more determined by “political correctness”. The West even refuses to name its real enemy. Just like a human being who cannot confess to himself that he is deadly ill. This enemy holds on to absolutely inadequate, irrational (to us) principles. In spite of all the disadvantages, horrors, and negative aspects of the communist regime, the people of the Warsaw Pact were still rational people. Our enemy today is irrational.

Today we have a new map of the world community. When I was a student at the International Relations Department of the Jerusalem University, we all studied the international community in detail and learned who its key players were. All countries, international corporations, international organizations (UN, UNESCO, NATO, IMF etc.) including the religious ones. Today there are new players on the stage that were not present there before. First of all, the “half-states”. One cannot attribute the name of a state in its full sense to Somalia. Various autonomous areas: Karabakh, Transdniestria, the Palestinian Authority. What are they? States? What is their international responsibility, their liabilities? And finally, the “irrational” players (terrorist organizations). For example, “Al Quaeda”. Is it a world player? Certainly yes, a player, a strong player, a dangerous player, but an absolutely irrational one. What can we offer Ben Laden in exchange for stopping his terrorist activities? Can we offer money, territory? That is of no importance to him. He is an irrational player. The “sleeping”, “smouldering” (as it was called in the 19th century) Islamic World throws its cards on the table in the face of the radical Islam of the 20th century. Twenty years ago Salman Rushdie was condemned and convicted. Now he is hiding somewhere between Britain and France. The Iranian ayatollahs passed a verdict on him. The entire Islamic World does not have a single political or religious leader who condemned this verdict. You will recall the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddha statues in Bamyan. None of the Islamic leaders condemned this action, or the reaction to the caricatures of the prophet. We are talking about the clash of two civilizations. We have two completely different sets of values. And the Western World seeks to neglect it, escape the choice, turn away. Indeed, everybody understands that the main threat to the Islamic world does not originate from Israel or Zionists; its root is the radical Islam. The main threat to the Palestinian Authority is not Israel, it is Hamas and Islamic Jihad; the main threat to the Lebanese government is Hezbollah; the main threat to the Egyptian government is the Muslim Brotherhood; in Yemen it is Al Qaeda; in the Persian Gulf countries the Iran of ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad. It is distressing to see the world’s unwillingness to pull itself together, combine and synchronize efforts to stop the social “pandemic” of the twentieth century in the guise of aggressive radical Islam.  When you are dealing with rational people, you can prove something to them, convince, reach understandings and an adequate settlement. The problem with people like Bin Laden, Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah is that they are irrational and inadequate. All they preach is hatred and violence. They desire to either make everyone their acolytes or destroy them. It is important to understand that it is a common threat to Europe, Israel, Russia and the world. Everybody is concerned with their own interests but will pay a very high price for it.


“V&H”: Could we have some more details? Would you agree that further procrastination in negotiations with Israel is beneficial for the Arab side because, apart from anything else, it is a big business? Who lives off this business?  

A.L.: This is the most flourishing industry in the world named “the peace process in the Middle East”. This industry produces the peace process. Thousands of people are involved in it. Thousands of people live off this peace process; fly from one capital to another, write papers, meet at breakfasts, lunches and dinners… People need efficient agriculture, jobs, good healthcare and education, social protection. But the politicians and bureaucrats keep focusing on “the peace process”. Today it has a huge and very serious slowing down effect on possible solutions to the economic and social development..

“V&H”: The idea of a unilateral proclamation of the Palestinian State is supported by many countries. In you view is President Obama likely to offer support to Mahmoud Abbas in respect of a unilateral proclamation of the Palestinian State?

A.L.: This is not the most important question when dealing with this issue. The problem is that there is no united Palestinian State; there is Hamastan in Gaza, Fatah in Judea and Samaria; they have already postponed elections in the Palestinian Authority three times… From our point of view, such unilateral proclamation of the Palestinian State would allow us to discard all liability we took on in the agreements, starting with the Oslo Agreement of 1993, just as Yasser Arafat did. And we would take it from there. I am less concerned with the purely rhetorical problem of proclamations. It does not mean anything. There is a real need for economy, jobs, budget, government institutions – all of these are currently non-existent.

Nobody but Israel invests in it. Only in the last couple of years we have invested in the Palestinian economy hundreds of millions of dollars. We believe that it is in our interest to create as many jobs there as possible, to advance the economy, which would effectively decrease opposition and make it difficult to provoke people to terrorism. We have been doing this and we will continue doing this regardless of the possible proclamation. Israel is the only source of fresh water reserves for the Palestinian Authority. the same situation applies to electricity, medication, medical equipment and much more.

“V&H”: Speaking of Israel’s international interaction, who do you see as strategic partners of Israel?

A.L.: The term “strategic” is a rather relative one. It is difficult to name specific countries here. We are on the same side of the fence and Israel is not the only country at risk. The explosions of September 11 2001 in New York, attacks on Bali, in London, Madrid, Beslan – these are all links of one chain.  The Wahhabism and radical Islam in the modern Caucasus did not arise there during the Soviet era; it was exported there from the countries of radical regimes. This is why sensible humanity has to cooperate and work in partnership to eliminate this danger. To limit this problem solely to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same as thinking that Hitler’s ambitions were limited to his concern about the Sudeten Germans.

“V&H”: In 2002 you sent an interesting letter to the Patriarch Alexy II regarding the fate of the Christian community in Bethlehem. As you will recall, you sent this letter in connection with the terrorist attack and desecration of the temple of the Nativity in Bethlehem. You proposed then the establishment of a Christian canton in Bethlehem. Was there any result? A.L.: There was no response, no reaction, no outcome. Unfortunately the number of Christians in Bethlehem continues to decrease dramatically. There used to be 75 percent of Christians in Bethlehem, then 33 and now less than 15. The process of Christian expulsion is ongoing on in many parts of the Islamic world. We see what is happening with Christians in Lebanon. Most of them fled; today Lebanon is not just a Muslim, but rather a Shiite country.


“V&H”: What are the relations between Israel and Russia – the motherland of so many Israeli people? Is there understanding and improvement in relations between the two countries?

A.L.: It depends how you approach the matter – is the glass half-full or half-empty? The answer is context-dependent. We are aware of the fact that Russia has its traditional ties and interests within the Islamic World. Russia’s relations with Hamas are certainly absolutely unacceptable to us; the placement of Russian rockets in Syria is also a very sensitive and painful matter for us. At the same time, twenty years of diplomatic relations have given some results. The fact that Russia is joining the sanctions against Iran, and bans S300 rocket supplies, speaks for itself; President Medvedev has made a brave move. After the phasing out of the visa regime, half a million Russian tourists visit Israel annually. They can see our life with their own eyes and this is not of minor significance. Yet another annual congress of Russian Media in Jerusalem has had great success; meetings with eminent thinkers from modern Russia have become frequent in Israel; cultural ties have become stable.

“V&H”: There is now a new factor in the picture – people living in Britain in the third generation who have been educated there suddenly become Islamic terrorists. Angela Merkel has recently announced the failure of the policy of multiculturalism. What is your opinion on that? 

A.L.: Apparently, Europe has started realizing that the threat of radical Islamism is contagious. The most acute problems in modern Europe are created by the existence of Islamic communities and the challenge of integrating them into European society. There are many discussions on this matter in Germany. People migrate there, take advantage of the amenities of a Western society, but are absolutely reluctant to recognize the values of the society, its regulations and rules. This is why we attribute the name of a Jewish democratic state to our country. We are the citizens not of some abstract state, but of one which is in essence a Jewish and democratic one.  This is its innate nature and the foundation of our legitimate place in this land.

“V&H”: What is your view on Turkey’s prospects of entering the European Union?

A.L.: Israel is not a member of the European Union. This matter is between Turkey and the EU.

“V&H”: And still, what do you make of the recent changes in Turkey’s foreign policy which this year speaks with an obvious anti-Israel accent? 

A.L.: Turkey’s new foreign policy has been called Neo-Ottomanism. It implies a departure from Atatürk’s legacy, wiping away secular values and promoting more fully Islamic ideas. Turkey is the only NATO member-state which voted at the Security Council against the Iran sanctions. There are many reasons for these changes…


 “V&H”: You have been in politics for around twenty years; you were a prominent member of the “Likud”; you have established the party “Israel is Our Home”. In your opinion did the “Russian street” manage to integrate into the Israeli society? Does the society recognize the Russian community?

A.L.: It is simply impossible to imagine modern Israel without the Russian community. This is a very good example of successful integration. And a quick one. First of all I would like to mention the Israeli economy, high-tech in particular. The entire high-tech industry, on which Israel has had huge returns (not only economic, but also the recognition of Israel as a fulfilled and self-sufficient state) would not have happened without the Russian community. It plays an important role in politics and in the military. In the late 1980‘s when I came to politics there was not a single Russian delegate in the Knesset; today there are tens of Russian-speaking ministers and deputies in the top echelons of power and civil service.

“V&H”: What are your thoughts on Yiddish? Is there a policy to preserve the culture of this language?

A.L.: I am a big fan of Yiddish; my father had the biggest Yiddish library in the Soviet Union; last Saturday I went to a theatre staging plays in Yiddish – a good theatre, I must say. This culture is being preserved, but it is difficult to predict whether it will stay a commonly used language; though the orthodox community does speak Yiddish, and I hope that this culture has a future.  

“V&H”: We are planning to organize a seminar in London aimed at clarifying Israel’s views on international problems. May we count on your participation?

A.L.: Absolutely.

“V&H”: May we thank you for taking time to speak with us and for your openness and sincerity.