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.