Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar brings the bracing news that the Obama administration is contemplating denying U.S. visas to any Israeli politicians who were members of Kahane Chai. The party is designated by both the U.S. and Israel as a terrorist organization. The most prominent individual affected would be Avigdor Lieberman who, Haaretz claims, was a party member briefly after he arrived from his native Moldova:
…The State Department is evaluating…reports that MK Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beiteinu, was a member of the extreme right group Kach. It appears on a State Department list of terrorist organizations.
If the Obama administration confirms the report that appeared last week in Haaretz, and which was not denied by Lieberman, the Yisrael Beiteinu leader may not be granted a visa to enter the U.S. The close cooperation between Israel and the U.S. on matters of strategy, defense, economics, commerce, tourism and transportation means that ministers charged with relevant portfolios often visit the United States.
A new MK, Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union, confirmed that he had been a member of Kach while it was headed by Meir Kahane and may face similar restrictions.
Clearly, no Israeli government would be willing to include such a person as a senior minister since not only would Lieberman be persona non grata with the U.S. government, he would embarrass the hell out of the government in its relations with others in the international community.
I would like every progressive who doubted whether Obama would make a difference when it comes to his Israel-Palestine policy compared to Bush, to reflect on whether this sort of report could possibly be imagined coming from our former president’s administration.
All of this may explain the Maariv story reported by the Jerusalem Post that Bibi is negotiating with Barak and Livni to form an “exclude Lieberman” coalition. Though other reports indicate that Bibi is talking with Tzipi, but not Barak, who, at any rate, is likely to sit this coalition out in Opposition. If Bibi-Tzipi talks proceed, it will be interesting to see what guarantees if any the Likud leader will provide that he is willing to follow the Olmert line in pursuing Syrian peace neogtitionas and talks with the Palestinians as well. If the guarantees are not ironclad, what use would sitting in a coalition with him be to Kadima? That smacks of Peresism, a panting after power for the sake of power rather than of advancing any particular political agenda.
My personal hope is that Livni lets Netanyahu stew in his own juice and refuses to join. This would set up an extreme rightist government beholden to Lieberman and those even farther to his right (if that is indeed possible). Such an ideologically extreme coalition will have a shorter reign than a more politically balanced one (consider the extremism of Bush-Cheney and how relatively quickly the bloom was off the rose).