Right of Reply: The nerve of Bibi

After all, did Jews spend 2,000 years dreaming of returning to the Land of Israel only to see it populated by Jews?

While I have heard much criticism of Binyamin Netanyahu over the years, I've never heard anyone accuse the once and possible future prime minister of being a bigot. But on this page, (January 4) Larry Derfner said that Bibi should rank right up there with Jean-Marie Le Pen, J rg Haider and "the rest of the world's racist demagogues." A responsible columnist would naturally need to back up such an incendiary charge with some pretty clear evidence. Derfner does, quoting a recent statement by Netanyahu about the impact of the cuts in child allowances that occurred during his tenure as finance minister. Just to make sure his readers haven't missed the offending passage, Derfner offers us the "smoking-gun" quote not once, but twice, in full. For those of you who missed it, here it is a third time: Two positive things happened: Members of the haredi public joined the workforce. And on the national level, the unexpected result was the demographic effect on the non-Jewish public, where there was a dramatic drop in the birth rate. Netanyahu was caught red-handed. Who would have thought that an Israeli leader circa 2007 could think, let alone say, something so shocking? And we thought the quaint notion that leaders of the Jewish state wanted more Jews than non-Jews in it was passe. Sure, Herzl believed it. But he was so 19th-century. Ben-Gurion believed it. But he stood on his head for long intervals at a time and wore pants up to his neck. Golda believed it. But what are you to expect from someone who moved to Palestine from America to drain swamps with the locals and wore those shoes, to boot? Begin believed it. But he was so, well, Jewish. BUT NETANYAHU? That same cosmopolitan, sophisticated guy who gets all the good interviews on television? Do the journalists posing questions to the smooth-talking statesman realize that he actually wants to preserve a Jewish majority in Israel? Do they know that in his heart of hearts he views policies that advance that goal, legal though they may be, as positive? Obviously not, which is why Derfner "hope[s] The New York Times, CNN and every other major news medium in the world pick up this story and does not let it go until Israel and Diaspora Jews are shamed into dumping this guy once and for all." If someone does not take a stand now, who knows where it could all lead? Pretty soon people in Israel will start demanding a Jewish national anthem, a Jewish flag and Jewish holidays off. Next thing you know, Jews around the world will think Israel should give them automatic citizenship just because they're Jews. In the end, some wild-eyed government might even have the hutzpa to send Israeli soldiers to some God-forsaken place in Africa to save Jewish hostages. With his latest scoop, Larry Derfner has given Israelis, no, all the Jewish people, a cause worth fighting. He has given us the opportunity to draw a line in the sand and say, enough is enough. After all, did Jews spend 2,000 years dreaming of returning to the Land of Israel only to see it populated by Jews? Did more than 20,000 of our finest sons and daughters die in this country's wars to defend the idea of Jewish sovereignty? Did millions of Jews uproot themselves and their families and move to this country simply to live in a Jewish state? In raising these important questions, we already owe Mr. Derfner our eternal gratitude. But while he should be commended for bringing this story to our attention, he is mistaken in calling Bibi a bigot. He is only a Zionist, and apparently even a proud one. The writer is minister of economic affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. and served under finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu.