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2004 U.S. Presidential Campaign: Joe Lieberman

Learn More about Democratic Challenger Senator Joe Lieberman:
AICE does not rate or endorse any candidate for political office. This page is for informational purposes only.

Policy Statements

Joe Lieberman: Fighting for a Strong U.S.-Israel Relationship

Joe Lieberman believes that America and Israel share a unique bond built on our shared values, shared commitment to freedom and democracy, and shared interests in defeating terrorism and promoting security and stability in the region. Lieberman has been a national leader in fostering ties between the US and Israel. He believes that supporting our ally is integral to US national security interests.

Putting Pressure on the Palestinians. Joe Lieberman believes that Yasser Arafat is no longer a credible partner for peace. He has called for Arafat's removal and his replacement with leadership willing to stop terrorism, to recognize the right of a Jewish state of Israel to exist in security, and to build a democratic Palestinian state. For more than a decade, Lieberman has led efforts to pressure the Palestinians to follow this course. In 1989, he cosponsored the PLO Commitments Compliance Act that called for the PLO to end its call for the destruction of Israel and to abandon terror, and has consistently urged Democratic and Republican presidents alike to pressure the Palestinians to renounce terrorism before negotiating with them.

Rallying Support for Israel. Joe Lieberman has rallied bipartisan support for Israel during his 15 years in the United States Senate. He has consistently supported increased foreign aid to our ally, including Israel's recent request for $12 billion in new aid, and opposed efforts to cut this wise investment in security. More than that, Lieberman has led his colleagues in offering support for Israel during difficult times. In the spring of 2002 when Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield to root out Palestinian terrorists, President Bush insisted that Israel withdraw "without delay." Joe Lieberman, in contrast, led the Senate in passing a resolution expressing solidarity with Israel.

Fighting to Move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Joe Lieberman has led the fight to move America's embassy in Israel to that country's indisputable capital, Jerusalem. In 1995, he was the prime co-sponsor of the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, and in 1999, he led his colleagues in taking the Clinton Administration to task for not moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

Leading the Effort to Disarm Saddam. Joe Lieberman has been a leader within his party and the Senate in ridding the Middle East of the threat of Saddam Hussein. In 1991, he was the lead co-sponsor of the Gulf War resolution, and over the years, has been the Senate's leading voice for removing Saddam from power. In 1998, he co-sponsored the Iraqi Liberation Act, which made a change of regime in Baghdad official United States policy and provided assistance to forces within Iraq seeking to depose Saddam's brutal dictatorship. In 2002, Lieberman worked with the Democratic leadership to pass the bipartisan resolution giving the President the authority to use military force, if and when diplomacy failed, to disarm Saddam.

Stopping Arms Sales to Iran. Joe Lieberman is clear-eyed about the potential threat that Iran, a supporter of terrorist groups like Hezbollah, is to our allies in the region and has led efforts to keep sophisticated weaponry out of Iran's hands. In 1996, he co-sponsored the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act. In 1998, he was a lead cosponsor of the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act, led the override of the President's veto of it, and led the push for the act's extension in 2001. (Joe Lieberman for President)

Joe Lieberman on "evenhandedness" and his criticism of Governor Howard Dean over his comments on Israel at the Congressional Black Caucus debate:

WILLIAMS: Senator Lieberman, you criticized Dr. Dean for just saying that the U.S. shouldn't take sides. Are you suggesting that there is no need for any shift in the U.S. policy in the Middle East, even as we saw today that bombings continue? What's wrong with a new approach, new thinking, if we are to be, as Governor Dean suggested, impartial and able to act as a force for negotiation and peace.

LIEBERMAN: To be a constructive force for negotiation and peace, we have to be respected and trusted by both parties. All of us here on the stage have quite correctly criticized George W. Bush for not standing by our values in our foreign policy and for breaking our most critical alliances.

That, with all respect, is exactly what Howard Dean's comments over the last week about the Middle East have done.

We have had a unique relationship with Israel, strong support of Israel. Why? Based on values. This is the only democracy in the Middle East, that's the beginning.

Secondly, based on mutual military strategic interests. Israel is the one country in the region that we can rely on today, tomorrow, 10, 50 years from now to stand with America in a time of crisis.

We do not gain strength as a negotiator -- and I've always supported a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine -- we do not gain strength as a negotiator if we compromise our support of Israel.

Let me say to Governor Dean, he has said he wouldn't take sides, but then he has said Israel ought to get out of the West Bank and an enormous number of their settlements ought to be broken down. That's up to the parties in their negotiations, not for us to tell them.

LIEBERMAN: I will simply say that Howard Dean's statements break a 50-year record in which presidents, Republican and Democrats, members of Congress of both parties have supported our relationship with Israel based on shared values and common strategic interests.

(Washington Post, September 9, 2003)

Joe Lieberman at the Arab American Institute:

And let me speak directly here about the Middle East, and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, there is only one acceptable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that is two states living side by side in peace and security, Israel and Palestine.

I know that getting there will take real effort, persistence, patience, engagement, day in and day out, but the fact is that nothing good will happen in this particular field of conflict if America is not there. Of course, we cannot force the parties to settle their differences or dictate the terms of a final agreement, but at our best we have an unrivaled opportunity to help move both sides forward with a steady hand, to help separate the aspirations of the Palestinian people from the terrorism that takes innocent lives, and poisons the legitimate cause of Palestinian statehood. It was a terrible mistake for President Bush to step back from this conflict for more than two years, and even after events forced the administration to focus, they began only a limited and sporadic engagement, they did not take advantage of the six weeks of relative calm, and absence of violence that followed the tabling of the road map. To this day, this president has failed to send a high level envoy to work full time, on the ground, in the region, to bring the parties closer together. And in the meantime what has happened? Thousands of Palestinians and Israelis have lost their lives, and we are no closer to the destination, the two-state solution that was on that road map.

Ladies and gentlemen, several weeks ago, as many of you know, I had a disagreement with one of the other candidates for the Democratic nomination, Howard Dean, about something he said. He said that America should not take sides between Israelis and Palestinians. In some sense it mirrored something I've always said myself, which is American surely can be both pro-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian. But, I challenged him for this reason, it is because if we believe, as I do, that our foreign policy is at its best when it is based first on our values and second on our strategic interests, then America does have a special relationship with Israel, based on its democratic values and political system, and our strong strategic alliance. I know some suggest that -- I'll be happy to answer the question when the question and answer time comes. Some suggest that relationship is incompatible with being an honest broker between the parties, but it didn't stop the United States of America from negotiating and achieving a peace between the Israelis and the Egyptians, and the Israelis and Jordanians, because we have a special relationship with Egypt, and Jordan. Rather than compromising or concealing those special relationships, we should hold them up as models. What we should hope for, and must work for, and I will as president, is the emergence of a Palestinian state with which we share the same democratic values, and strategic interests as we do now with Israel. Then we will all be on the same side, Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians. Then we will all have a special relationship.

My friends, I have compassion for all the children of Abraham on both sides, who suffer as long as this conflict continues. I will work hard for Palestinians and Israelis to make hard choices and accept them, embracing the terms of these negotiations. That's what these parties have to do, not have them imposed on them. It's critically important that we work for the emergence of a strong Palestinian leader. And I have traveled extensively in the Palestinian community over the last decade, and I know that there are many able, honorable, strong leaders there. There must be a leader who will make a 100 percent effort to stop the terrorist attacks, and dismantle the terrorist networks. There will be no progress toward peace and a two-state solution until that happens. But, when it does, Israel must and will make the changes necessary for an agreement.

We know from public opinion polls that under those circumstances the overwhelming majority of Israelis would encourage, and support that. When I am president, both Israelis and Palestinians will know by my effort, by my outreach, by my willingness to listen and learn, as I believe they have over the years that I have traveled extensively in the region, that they have a friend in the White House who will do everything he can to improve their lives, and their prospects for realizing their own legitimate aspirations. In my White House, there will always be an open door for all. I will work for a just and lasting peace, that will save Palestinian lives, that will save Israeli lives, and that will uphold America's leadership and integrity.

(Arab American Institute, October 17, 2003)

Lieberman at the Congressional Black Caucus/FOX News Debates:

PERKINS: Senator Lieberman, in light of that, there are many who believe that peace in the world is impossible without some resolution of the Palestinian issue.

How far are you willing to go? How much are you willing to do to win the trust of the Palestinian people?

LIEBERMAN: Well, Huel, as you know, I was here in Detroit just a week ago to speak to the Arab-American Institute to stress what unites us. As I said, the hyphen between Arab-American and other ethnic Americans is in some places in the world a divider. Here it's a uniter. It should remind us we are all Americans and we are all children of the same god and children of the same father, Abraham. We are literally brothers and sisters. And it's in that spirit that I intend to approach as president the conflict in the Middle East.

It's a tragedy, people dying every day. It requires the kind of persistence of the president of the United States that Dick Gephardt has just spoken of, and that President Bush has not shown in now almost three years in office. The solution here -- the only acceptable solution is quite clear: a two-state solution; peaceful, free Israel standing next to peaceful, free, independent Palestine. And that will come only if the United States remains involved. And first step must be an end to terrorism.

Would I negotiate with Hamas and other terrorist groups? Not while they're terrorists. But, you know, as a matter of faith and policy, I believe that people are capable of change.

If they renounce terrorism -- as Yitzhak Rabin, the late prime minister of Israel said, you don't negotiate with your friends to achieve peace, you negotiate with those who have been your enemies.

Yes, I would do anything within reason and security to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. (Washington Post, October 27, 2003)

Lieberman on why he has not met with Yasser Arafat:

I visited the Middle East last December. I visited the Palestinians. I met with the soon-to-be, but unfortunately not-too- long-to-be, Prime Minister Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas. I met with members of the cabinet.

I did not meet with Yasser Arafat. Do you know why? President Bill Clinton gave him an offer of Palestinian statehood, along with former Prime Minister Barak, that came that close to being enacted, but he turned against it and then facilitated violence.

I said before I would not hesitate as president to have the United States mediate between the Israelis and any Palestinian leader who really had declared their own war against terrorism.

Unfortunately, Arafat has not done that. In fact, he stopped Prime Minister Abbas and now Prime Minister Qureia from doing what they wanted to do, which was to take on the terrorists.

As long as he's there, there's not going to be a real chance for peace in the Middle East. (Washington Post, October 27, 2003)

Lieberman on Jonathan Pollard and the justice system:

[Jonathan Pollard] "did get an unfair sentence when compared to others, but that's sometimes how the system works." (JTA, October 16, 2003)

Lieberman on "Dual Loyalty" and The Chance to Be the First Jewish President


The other place this comes up, obviously, is Middle East politics. You got asked about that in the meeting, as well, and you took on Howard Dean's comment, saying that America doesn't take sides. In some ways the question gets turned on you that, yeah, of course, you're going to take sides and perhaps, and maybe people won't say it, you have a dual loyalty.


Yeah, no way. I support Israel as an American. I support Israel as part of a foreign policy that is based on our values and interests. Israel shares our democratic values. Israel is our best strategic ally, our most trustworthy ally in the region. We have other allies who are Arabs, Arab countries, that I feel as faithful to.


But there's so much hostility now to the United States in the Arab world, and I would expect that there are going to be a lot of questions raised if you do better in this campaign, people saying, can you really be an honest broker?


Oh, for sure. Whenever I visited the Arab world, including the Palestinians, I've been treated with respect as an American. They know I'm Jewish, but in some ways that draws a bond, a tie, believe it or not, and they know that I'm a fair person. Look, if we're talking about the crazies, the fanatics, the violent Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden types, you know, they hate all Americans, no matter whether we're Christian or Jewish or Hindu or whatever. They hate Muslims who are not like them, but if we're talking about Arab leaders in the Arab street, I have a confidence that I can actually do a much better job than George Bush has done, in conveying American values and American concerns for the well-being of people in the Arab and Islamic world.


So you don't think America will become more of a target of Al-Qaeda, of the crazies because America has a Jewish president?


No, I mean, let's -just recall the tragic fact which was that we were attacked on September 11th, 3,000 Americans killed when we had a Christian president. So they don't care the religion of the president. The Al-Qaeda terrorists hate Americans. They hate Americans more than they love life, and we just have to capture and kill them, but then we have to go on to win a bigger battle for the hearts and minds of people in the Islamic world and I am committed to that. (Source: ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 10/19/2003)

Lieberman on the Conflict

this is a heartbreaking conflict which hurts people on both sides. And it now becomes part of the war on terrorism, too. There's only one acceptable solution to this, and that is the two-state solution. Israel and Palestine. The first thing that has to happen to get back on the track is that the new Palestinian leadership, which is much better than Yasser Arafat, to put it mildly, has to make clear that they're going to make 100 percent effort to stop the terrorism against Israelis. And once that happens, then the Israelis have to be asked to respond. (MSNBC, December 15, 2003)

Lieberman on Unofficial Peace Plans:

Jim Besser - "New York Jewish Week"

Senator, in recent weeks we've seen a number of new ideas for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the unofficial Geneva Accords on the left to the Olmert plan on the right. I'm wondering what your assessment is of these plans, your assessment of the entire idea of unofficial negotiations taking place without government sanction and also of the implications for US policy.

Sen. Joe Lieberman

Yeah, I mean I'd start by saying that in my opinion, look, the current impasse is a tragedy and people on both sides are suffering as a result. And, as I've said over and over again and I'll say again today, the first step that has to be taken to open the path to the possibility of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is for the Palestinian leadership to make 100 - make clear that they're making 100 percent effort to stop terrorism against Israelis. Once that happens, so much else is possible.

I will say that I always find it encouraging when people from - people in - individuals from peoples in conflict are talking to each other, and particularly talking about different approaches to peace. And that was my reaction to the various private discussions and even proposals, including Geneva going on.

But it's critical to remember that these are not representatives of the official governments. They may an effect within [unintelligible] on people but - within their peoples - the Israelis or the Palestinians - but they're not official governments. And our relations are with official governments, including particularly obviously with the Israelis who remain such a close ally of ours, both in democratic values and military and intelligence cooperation.

So I think, you know, encouraging but unofficial and ought to be treated that way. (Jewsweek, December 26, 2003 - from December 12 conference call)

Lieberman on Carter as Middle East Envoy

Eric Fingerhut - "Washington Jewish Week"

How are you doing? I wanted to ask you, two of your primary opponents, John Kerry just last week and Howard Dean, back in September suggested that former President Jimmy Carter would be a good selection as a Middle East envoy for the United States, particularly in light of President Carter's recent comments at the Geneva Accords signing. Do you think he's an appropriate person for that position?

Sen. Joe Lieberman

I have an enormous amount of respect for President Carter but - and I've talked repeatedly about the fact that one of the great failings of the Bush policy in the Middle East has absence of the administration from the field, and I've said the field of battle and negotiation. And I've said that I would, as a priority, appoint a high-level emissary to go over there and be there full-time to press the parties to make progress. But to do that, one, you've go to spend full-time; and two, you've got to have the trust of both sides. And with all respect, based on his statements already on this conflict, I don't believe that this would be the right position for President Carter. (Jewsweek, December 26, 2003 - from December 12 conference call)

Lieberman on the Howard Dean Campaign, the Democratic Party & the Middle East

Andy Silow-Carroll - "The New Jersey Jewish News"

A question: the Republicans are making hay of Howard Dean's Middle East policy, especially its Israel policy, pro-Israel pacts have been [unintelligible] there, criticizing him heavily. Do you expect to - and national Jewish Democrats have also been defending that policy - do you intend to sharpen the distinctions between your Israel policy and Howard Dean's in the weeks to come? And is there a danger in that, that the Democratic Party would look to be weak on Israel in the eyes of the pro-Israel pacts?

Sen. Joe Lieberman

There is - I mean the danger that I worry about from the Dean candidacy and the possibility that he may be nominated is that it sends a message of weakness and inexperience on foreign and defense policy generally. And we live in a dangerous world. I'm a Democrat in the tradition of Truman and Kennedy and Scoop Jackson and Bill Clinton, that know that you had to stay strong and use that strength sometimes. Obviously you try negotiations, diplomacy, economic assistance but that's the way the world is. And that's true of the Middle East.

I mean some of the things that Howard has said about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been very troubling and inconsistent with more than a half century of bipartisan American foreign policy. Now in most cases, he's sort of come back and tried to correct those statements but the very fact that he made them is worrisome to me. You know, I said a while ago that I know who I am, I know what I believe, I have a record and I've stuck to it in this campaign, even when I knew I was in an audience where I might get heckled or booed because ultimately if you want to be president, you better be ready to do what's right for the country whether it's politically popular or not. And that's the way I feel about our relationship with Israel, which is unique and strong and to the benefit of both countries. And that's why I was the first one to not hesitate to take Howard on when he made that outrageous statement that we ought not to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And I'm going to continue to do that.

I'm going to - I'm proud that I have been supported by the McCain - some of the McCain supporters in New Hampshire in the primary there. And they said they're doing it because they think I'm the straight talker. They concluded I'm the straight talker in this campaign and when it comes to foreign policy, including the Middle East and defense policy, you can count on me to keep talking straight because that's what the American people deserve.

(Jewsweek, December 26, 2003 - from December 12 conference call)

Lieberman on Iraq's Relationship to the Arab-Israeli Conflict at January 4 Iowa Debates

Senator Lieberman, talk about another hot spot, if you will, the Middle East. What's the correct road map now for Israel and the Palestinians?

LIEBERMAN: First, let me say that the capture of -- overthrow and then capture of Saddam Hussein has made America safer and made the world safer. It has not ended all of our problems or all the threats to our security, but a president has to deal with more than one threat at a time.

The Middle East is directly related, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict directly related. We have to stay the course in Iraq now and continue to build a stable, modernizing, democratizing country there.

If we do that, we will not only have won a victory in the war on terrorism because we will have shown the Arab world what happens as a result of American intervention, that you live better, freer lives, but we will have sent the message to all the other terrorists and tin horn dictators there, like Gadhafi and even like the Iranians, who are beginning to cooperate, that we mean business.

Between the Israelis and the Palestinians, there is only one good solution, it is a two-state solution. As president, I would devote time, commit my secretary of state to it, appoint a special ambassador to be there to work with both sides to move along the path to peace.

The doors are open now, in part because of our victory in Iraq.

(Washington Post, January 5, 2004)

Lieberman statement to Jewish Telegraphic Agency

And keep America strong in the world — with a muscular foreign policy working with allies and friends.

What does that mean for the Middle East?

It means that we need to recognize we have a special relationship with Israel. America and Israel share a unique bond built on our shared values, shared commitment to freedom and democracy, and shared interests in defeating terrorism and promoting security and stability in the region.

I also believe that peace and stability in the Middle East is vitally important to America’s national security, and we need to work hard to realize the day when we have a secure, democratic Jewish Israel alongside a democratic and peaceful Palestine.

The essential first step to achieve that goal is for the Palestinian leadership to make a 100 percent effort to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations. Once that happens, so much else is possible.

And until that happens, almost any step we take will be illusory.

The United States cannot force the parties to settle their differences or dictate the terms of a final settlement. But there is hope and progress only when America is engaged. When America is not engaged, peace, stability and security suffer.

The Bush administration has concentrated in fits and starts. That has not helped quell the violence or returned us to the path of peace. As well, we need to redouble our efforts in grappling with the broader security threats from Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. (JTA, January 11, 2004)

Lieberman's response to the 2004 National Political Awareness Test (NPAT)

1) Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding the Middle East.

a) Should the United States continue to provide leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? -- Yes

b) Should the United States support the creation of a Palestinian state? -- Yes

(Project Vote Smart)

Lieberman on the Middle East

Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East and that relationship is based on shared democratic values and on geopolitical, military and strategic ___ that we share together. Israel is involved in its own battle against terrorism, I believe that we should respect Israel's right to do the kinds of things that are necessary to protect their security including the building of the wall. The building of the wall is not a temporary act and I would do everything I could in my power to do two things, one is _____ with the Israelis _____ exactly where the wall ends. But the second is to move this process forward with the kind of engagement from the White House that President Clinton gave. To try and bring about advances in the peace process that would take us to the point where there was an agreement on a two state solution that would allow for the removal of the wall, because the fear of terrorism, and confidence would have been upheld. I have a particular commitment to this I have traveled widely throughout the Middle East, peoples on both sides are suffering as a result of the status quo. It will not get better unless the United States is active every day through the White House, through the Secretary of State, through a high level emissary there full time to urge and cajole and coerce both sides each day to do something, not destructive and divisive, but constructive and unifying to create the peace that all of us should pray for between Israelis and the Palestinians, Israelis and Arabs in the Middle East and throughout the world. Thank you. (Remarks in Concord, NH, on Jan. 8, 2004)