First Bibi Netanyahu tells Jeffrey Goldberg that if Barack (Obama, that is) won’t bomb Iran, he will. Then his new foreign minister single-handedly renounces the entire Palestinian peace process followed by the previous government. All this in 24 hours! I tell you it’s going to be a rollicking good ride over the next few months until this government falls.
In his very first speech as foreign minister, not 24 hours after being sworn in, Avigdor Lieberman roiled relations with Israel’s two key allies, Egypt and the U.S., not to mention the Palestinians. Here’s how the N.Y. Times covered the story:
In a blunt and belligerent speech on his first day as Israel’s new foreign minister, the hawkish nationalist Avigdor Lieberman declared Wednesday that “those who wish for peace should prepare for war” and that Israel was not obligated by understandings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reached at an American-sponsored peace conference in late 2007.
I agree with Rashid Khalidi, who spoke on a Brit Tzedek sponsored conference call tonight, and said that while Annapolis wasn’t a stunning success, to renounce it entirely as Lieberman has done is breathtaking in its rejectionism.
Since Annapolis was a pet project of the Bush administration, specifically Condi Rice, it’s hard to imagine that Israel’s new foreign minister would feel the need to reject an initiative of one of the most slavishly pro-Israel U.S. administrations in memory.
Not to mention the irony in the fact that one of the three demands made of Hamas (by Israel and the U.S. among others) is that it respect previous peace agreements made by the PA with Israel. In Lieberman’s rejection of Annapolis, we have a new Israeli government rejecting a negotiating process pursued by a previous center-right Israeli government. It just doesn’t look too good when Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon are viewed as suspect leftists by this new bunch.
Lieberman also passed this standard cloud of right wing rhetorical gas:
“Those who think that through concessions they will gain respect and peace are wrong,” Mr. Lieberman said during a transfer ceremony at the Foreign Ministry. “It is the other way around; it will lead to more wars.”
This is an allusion to a common rightist racist theory that Arabs only understand force and that when effete liberal governments (like Ariel Sharon’s, for example!) grant concessions or show flexibility, those primitive Arabs understand this as weakness, which leads them in turn to become bolder in their demands. Hence the idiotic claim that concessions lead to wars.
In another bit of unintentional comic relief, Lieberman, who told Hosni Mubarak he could go to hell if he didn’t want to visit Israel, rather daintily said he’d be delighted to visit Egypt. The only problem–he hasn’t been invited nor is he likely to be:
“Egypt is an important element in the Arab world and in the world in general.” He added that he would “certainly be happy to visit Egypt, but I’ll also be happy to see Egypt’s leaders visit here.”
No word of any Egyptian leaders lining up to buy airline tickets to Israel.
Amidst all this political buffoonery you’d think at least the Israeli people who voted for these clowns would be pleased, but they’re not. Haaretz published a poll finding that 54% of Israelis were “dissatisfied” with the new government. And that’s on its first day in office!! Only one-quarter of Israelis polled said Lieberman was qualified to be foreign minister. If I were an Israeli Jon Stewart, I’d roll up my sleeves and start having fun.
I think Liberman tried to show Netanyahu who will call the shots in this governement from its first day, and He will go on embarrassing him in the future.
This is not bad news: with this kind of talking, maybe the world will start paying attentions to Israel’s actions. we might even see real pressure sometime.
Richard Witty says
Sometimes clarity backed up by force is better than compromise without accountability.
But, Lieberman is not offering clarity nor any path to anything good by any definition.
In the last two days, difficult negotiations with reluctant progress has been dashed.
Yesterday, Lieberman (as official foreign minister) asserted that Israel was in no way considering a land for peace swap with Syria, that they are only considering peace for peace. To which Assad stated, “If Israel is willing to abandon peaceful solutions, then we are as well” (not a direct quote).
So, in the course of a week, relations between Israel and Syria are proceeding to war status, relations between Israel and the PA (even Fatah) are approaching breakdown of a gamut of peace agreements (Oslo, Road Map, Annapolis), relations between Israel and Egypt are stressed to the prospect of the treaty between Israel and Egypt breaking down.
It is plausible that Israel will find itself in May, 1967. Enemies on all sides.
It is so difficult to sympathize with this. I am so afraid for the 8 million Jews that live there.
The important question (parallel to the question of where is the Palestinian Gandhi), is where is the Israeli Gandhi, sufficiently politically and morally educated, focused and self-disciplined to realize peace.
In his first speech as foreign minister, Lieberman said yesterday, “There is no country that made concessions like Israel. Since 1967 we gave up territory that is three times the size of Israel. We showed willingness. The Oslo process started back in 1993, and to this day I have not seen that we reached peace.” This land was never Israel’s to take anyway, so as far as concessions go it’s like asking a burglar who’s just robbed you of everything you own to make concessions and return your DVD player.
Where is the Israeli Gandhi you asked, Richard? He is everywhere. There are plenty of Israelis out there that would fit the Gandhi mould, but sadly they are sidelined as being either antisemitic or self-hating. Sometimes both.
What Israel needs right now is exactly what it is getting (or going to get) – a sharp wake-up call. There is only so much the West can take from a state that sees itself as sharing Western values but at the same time wilfully neglects the basic tenets of justice and human rights.
Richard, I feel for you and the 8 million Jews that live in Israel (that figure is closer to 5.4million). Sadly, for the last sixty years, the rest of us have been fearing for the 9million Muslim, Christian and Jewish Palestinians, living in Israel.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t know whether I should say that I’m sorry to say, or glad to say, that we agree on this one.
Marilyn Shepherd says
Only the Israeli’s Richard? Not in the least bit interested in the 20% of the population who are not fucking jews?
God almighty man. Richard S. was right to use profanity.
And after my own gutless government ranted that Hamas were terrorists and asked to be bombed to bits they have not said a word about this facist thug.
Richard Witty says
You make a very large projection of my views, Marilyn.
Miles Stuart says
Israel doesn’t need a Gandhi, it needs vocal Helen Suzman’s and an F. W. de Klerk
Lieberman’s inclusion in Netanyahu’s government looks bleak. However, to continue the apartheid analogy, the National Party in South Africa consistently increased its support over a period of decades to a high water mark in 1977. Shortly thereafter reality slowly began to sink in. Despite a succession of rejectionist defections from the National Party, thirteen years later Nelson Mandela walked out of prison. I see no reason to believe that Israel’s rightward political march will not similarly continue until reality begins to sink in.
The key difference in Israel’s case is that the international opposition, which was critical to ending apartheid, is not yet strong enough to have had a significant effect. Indeed, whilst there is clearly concern among some Israelis about the intensifying external opposition to Israeli policy the electorate in general seems unwilling to recognise their inevitablity.
I was struck during the recent Gaza atrocities by the number of comments by Israelis on the Haaretz website which blithely dismissed the possibility of EU sanctions. I think they are probably correct, but it is a much closer run thing than they assume.
Gaza may fade quickly from their memories but it will fester in the memories of the public outside Israel. From the outside a seemingly unending train of brutality (beginning in my case with the Sabra and Chatila massacres) has shaped the image of modern Israel. Here in the UK it is increasingly common to hear satirical references to Israeli behaviour reminiscent of those about the Apartheid Regime. Israel is no longer seen as a David facing Goliath. Its image is the capricious oppression of Palestinians. What it is doing is worse than apartheid. It is not exploiting Palestinians. It is squeezing the life out of Palestine’s communities.
Lieberman’s appointment will further degrade Israel’s image but it may also prove in hindsight to have foreshadowed the beginning of the end.
I have just read a review of the work of Hannah Arendt who predicted with remarkable accuracy Israel’s psychological trajectory.
It is a rich review from which I quote just one paragraph:
I don’t believe a two state solution is going to be achievable, or even that it is a solution. Israel’s Palestinian citizens would necessarily continue to be subordinate. Their situation would always provoke feelings of enmity among the citizens of Israel’s neighbours. Two states would leave Jewish Israelis as outsiders among their neighbours and in that state of perpetual psychological siege Arendt foretold.
A single state need not be Jewish or Palestinian. It could be both. Not easily, but it would achieve a genuine acceptance rather than an illusory security than cannot be obtained by attempting to maintain a perpetual supremacy.
Miles Stuart says
I have just realised the link to the discussion about the work of Hannah Arendt was provided by Richard S in another posting. Thanks Richard.
Miles Stuart says
I have a little more on how battered Israel’s image is. Phil Weiss mentioned a discussion which had mushroomed on TechCrunch. As you might have guessed TechCrunch is “a weblog dedicated to obsessively profiling and reviewing new Internet products and companies”. Not, you are probably thinking, the most likely venue for a discussion on Israel/Palestine. Well, think again.
Gaza may have been flattened but, assuming Israel or Egypt can be persuaded to allow in cement, it will be rebuilt. The damage to Israel is going to prove much more enduring.