Israelis are known for being direct and blunt. But comments made by David Landau, editor of the Israeli daily, Haaretz, to Condoleezza Rice about Israel needing to be “raped” by the U.S. to achieve a Mideast settlement caused quite a stir among the 20 or so attendees at a confidential briefing with the secretary of state on a recent visit to Israel.
The incident, which took place Sept. 10 at the private residence of America’s ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, has not been fully reported until now. What is contested is not the raw language Landau used but the context of his impassioned comments.
Following Rice’s briefing to the gathered military, academic and media elites at the dinner, the guests offered their views and comments
about the Mideast impasse. Landau, who was seated next to Rice, was said to have referred to Israel as a “failed state” politically, one in need of a U.S.-imposed settlement. He was said to have implored Rice to intervene, asserting that the Israeli government wanted “to be raped” and that it would be like a “wet dream” for him to see this happen.
When contacted this week, Landau said the description was “inaccurate” and “a perversion of what I said.” He said his views had been delivered with “much more sophistication.”
But he added: “I did say that in general, Israel wants to be raped — I did use that word — by the U.S., and I myself have long felt Israel needed more vigorous U.S. intervention in the affairs of the Middle East.”
Landau, often outspoken in his views, is a bit of an anomaly in Israeli society in that he is a native Brit editing Israel’s oldest newspaper and an observant Jew (and former yeshiva student) with decidedly left-wing views.
He told The Jewish Week that the context of his remarks was that each of the dinner attendees spoke of Israel’s challenges, and when it was his turn he pointed out that since 1967, Israel has failed to resolve its territorial conflicts with the Palestinians.
“I told [Rice] that it had always been my wet dream to address the secretary of state” on these vital matters, he said.
Her response, he said, was “fantastic” in that she was “completely unfazed” by his remarks, and remained “urbane and diplomatic.” Attendees said she told the assembled that the U.S. had no intention of imposing a settlement on the Israelis and Palestinians.
Isi Leibler, a weekly columnist for The Jerusalem Post who has written critically of Landau, said that “by any benchmark, Landau’s behavior as an Israeli citizen would be deemed unacceptable.” He said it was “unconscionable” for someone in Landau’s position to urge a U.S. Secretary of State “to ‘rape’ his own government.”
Ehud Yaari, a leading broadcast and print journalist in Israel who reported the incident on the air but did not mention Landau by name, called it “embarrassing.”
But Landau said he had no regrets and that, on the contrary, he was pleased, adding that he was later congratulated by several professors in the room who felt “I articulated what many Israelis feel.”