Friday, May 14, 2010

Lieberman is an Asset

One of these days, I'll write about the bigotry and arrogance inherent in degrading Israel's Foreign Minister as just "a Moldovan bouncer". It is a derogatory phrase employed by people who resent the notion that Jews of the Soviet Union are sophisticated enough to think for themselves in matters of politics, just as they belittled the Arab Jews fifty years prior.

The reason why Lieberman is popular with Israel's Russian-speaking community, and indeed with Russian speaking Jews all over the world, is his no-nonsense approach to dealing with matters of policy. I may not agree with every policy position of Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman's party, nor do I think he is an altruistic individual without a personal stake in his growing his political constituency, but every time he speaks I appreciate his simple, forceful candor, and I see Russian Jews around me nodding in agreement, even as "civilized" leftist Jews go berserk.

Take the following interview by Haaretz. I encourage you to read it in full, though I will quote only a few select passages.

On the Proximity Talks:
That is, from your point of view, there's no room to make a goodwill gesture with regard to these talks?

I think we've made many gestures and all we've gotten in response are slaps in the face. As you remember, we took the unilateral step of deciding on a moratorium, a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria. We recognized two states for two peoples. We removed a dramatic number of roadblocks and allowed Fatah to hold a conference in Bethlehem.

Cooperation with Tony Blair led to [economic] growth of 8 to 9 percent in Judea and Samaria, while the rest of the world was in crisis. I think we made countless gestures, and what did we get in return? The glorification of terror, streets named after Yihyeh Ayash and Dalal Mughrabi. And they try to incite against us and cut us down in every international forum.

The day before Israel's acceptance by the OECD, [Palestinian Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad approached dozens of countries with a request to sabotage that acceptance. They keep going on with their stories about war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. After all, [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas himself called and asked us, pressured us to continue the military campaign and overthrow Hamas. And how many days later did he complain to the International Court in The Hague? And they keep on doing this.

On the PA unilaterally declaring a Palestinian State:
How do you feel about Fayyad's announcement that he is working to unilaterally establish a Palestinian state?

I'm not interested in what Salam Fayyad declares. His pronouncements are not aimed at establishing a Palestinian state but rather to augment his political power. It's no secret that there's a lot of tension between Salam Fayyad and Fatah, and it's clear that all his pronouncements are meant to build his personal position, and political power for Salam Fayyad. It's clear that he has a lot of political ambition and he has apparently started to come out publicly and build a position for himself.

Which means you don't believe that a state will materialize?

He no doubt knows better than anyone that it's very much not worth it to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state. It's obvious to him, and he is aware of this better than you or me. He only stands to lose from such an event.

Why? Even if Europe recognizes it?

Never mind, he's on top of things and believe me he's very well aware of reality and there's no reason to think he'll act unilaterally.

I don't see what he has to lose.

The moment he starts unilateral actions, we will too, and it's obvious that on balance he will lose.

What kind of unilateral actions?

There are enough, we have a large arsenal of steps, you don't need examples.

Annexing territory?

Never mind, but believe me he knows for sure.

Wow. Have you spoken to him yourself?

No, God forbid.

Why 'God forbid'?

Because I don't think now is the right time for talks.

On war with Syria:
The prime minister says that Iran is trying to provoke a war between us and Syria. What do you think about this statement?

It's nothing new. The Iranians are always trying to tell Syria directly, and by passing on lies through Hezbollah, that we're going to attack at any moment. There's no doubt that they are happy that the attention given to their nuclear developments is moving on to a quarrel between us and Syria. I think the penny has dropped for the Syrians, too, and they understand these tricks.

It's not in the Syrians' interest?

No, definitely not.

More like this, please. No other Israeli diplomat has dared to communicate on the issues he did in this interview. Why is that so? Why must everything be decided behind closed doors, the rest of us relying on an incompetent media that has lost all professionalism, publishing the equivalent of press releases by biased parties, with little unvarnished analysis. Is he rough around the edges? Yes, and it should be the role of those professional career diplomats around him to soften those edges to enhance his effectiveness, not undermine him with leaks and barely veiled contempt, which is internalized by malicious parties. Lieberman is an asset to Israel, and it's long past time for us to start treating him that way.

1 comment:

  1. I'm beginning to like the man better every day even if I am still doubtful whether his breach with the habit of veiled talking by diplomats will in the end turn out to be good or bad ... right now it feels like a breath of fresh air - I liked Netanyahu's rightful indignation speech at the UN unreservedly but Lieberman goes a big step further in the straight talking direction - may it do his country good

    "Lieberman: North Korea calling me an 'imbecile' is a compliment"


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