Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Netanyahu Show Ought to Begin, Brought to you by Lieberman

In an interview on Russian television, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Gheit said that he would not deal with his new Israeli counterpart, Lieberman, nor would Lieberman be welcome in Egypt" long as his positions, which we have seen before, remain as they are." Gheit did, however, say that his government would continue to work with the Israeli Government, only, not with the Foreign Minister.

Gheit was not exactly clear which of Lieberman's positions he was talking about. The new Israeli Foreign Minister has made comments which ought to be of concern to anyone hopeful for peace in the region and to anyone interested in a just Israeli society. For example, there have been comments about rejecting the Annapolis peace process, about the President of Egypt taking a trip "to hell" if he refuses to visit Israel (even though Israeli leaders visit Egypt,) that in the event of a war between Israel and Egypt, that Israel should bomb the Aswan dam and he has suggested that everyone in Israel be required to sign a pledge of loyalty to the state before being allowed to vote.

Gheit was most likely referring to comments vis-a-vis relations with Egypt, bombing the Aswan dam and the rejection of Annapolis. Lieberman may have just been talking tough to appease the constituency that voted for his party. He may also be the spokesman for the Prime Minister, Netanyahu's id, saying what, for diplomatic reasons, the Prime Minister cannot say himself. In either case, Lieberman is doing an excellent job of isolating and alienating himself from his counterparts in a major regional power and the most important Arab state with whom Israel has friendly relations. Friend's do not always need to agree, but when they don't, it's probably best not to hold a grudge and continue to antagonize. Lieberman is supposed to be Israel's top diplomat. It's time for him to start behaving like a diplomat and to recognize how his actions may be damaging to an important strategic relationship.

Another interesting point to make is that the latter scenario presented above: that Lieberman is Netanyahu's attack dog, is not likely a theory accepted by Egypt. In fact, Gheit's language suggests that Egypt is making a clear distinction between the policies of the Israeli government and Lieberman in that they will continue to deal with the former even as they shun the latter. This could have a number of consequences for relations with Israel, but most importantly, it offers Netanyahu, or the Israeli government as a whole, to demonstrate through words or through deeds that Israel will continue forward with its peacemaking efforts and that peace in the region remains the end goal.

Netanyahu has never refuted Lieberman's comments, neither has he publicly censured nor sanctioned them. Similarly, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has not responded to Gheit's latest remarks. Either way, Netanyahu is now walking a diplomatic tightrope--or at least about to start walking. One of his most important regional partners no longer wants to deal with his foreign ministry, he has to appease varying constituencies within his coalition and he needs to demonstrate to the world that Israel remains interested in peace. It's an unenviable position and the "show" on the tightrope will be interesting to watch.


Steve Lieblich said...

Surely its the Arabs and Iran that need "to demonstrate to the world that [they are] interested in peace" than for Israel to do so. They have rejected each and every proposition for co-existence since the first Arab riots in Jaffa in 1921 ...not only before the "occupation", but even before the existence of the state of Israel.

Israel has in the meantime accepted every such proposal.

Remember that the initial League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, which was to become the Jewish homeland, included all of what is now known as Israel, Gaza, The West Bank AND Jordan.

Yet the Jewish world accepted the 1934 Peel Commission report, which would have given just a small area around Haifa as the Jewish State. It also accepted the 1947 UN partition, which was still just a fragment of the original Mandate.

The Arabs violently rejected these and every other peace overture, because they don't really want another Arab state (why didn't the Palestinian Arabs ask for autonomy from Egypt and Jordan when they controlled Gaza and the West Bank?).

What they want is to destroy Israel and expel all Jews from the region, just as they have expelled 850,000 from all the Arab states surrounding Israel in the last 60 years...

So WHO needs to demonstrate an interest in peace???? ...If you support Israel, back off Netanyahu and Lieberman ...they've GOT IT RIGHT, AT LAST....

Steve Lieblich said...

check out


Charlie H. Ettinson said...

Steve, first, as always let me thank you for your interesting comment and the links and let me apologize for replying so late.

I agree that there are those in the Arab world who have a great deal to demonstrate if they wish to prove that they're interested in peace, but it's known that Israel has its extremists too. It's a two way street and the way supporters of Israel will point to links such as the one you referred to from Egypt, some in the Arab world may point to shocking footage of settlers in the West Bank attacking Palestinians. You and I may know that this is not representative of Israel, but it presents an image to the world that you would agree, I'm sure, is less than savory.

What I'm trying to suggest here is that this new Israeli government seems to be taking a standoffish approach to peace in the sense that there has been no official policy articulated on the matter. The current government’s foreign policy has not yet been developed and so it's unclear which direction they'll head in but one hopes that even in the face of extremist voices in the Arab world Israel will not retreat from the diplomatic route and engagement with those in the Arab world who do want peace.

There's no question that I support Israel, but just as I am critical of the government of Canada--a country I support--I will wait to see what Bibi does before I lend my voice in support of this new Knesset's policy.