Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lieberman For the Win

Around a week ago, I made the following comments on Yaacov's blog:
Actually I was looking for much more from [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman on the Former Soviet Union front. If there's one place where you'd think he would provide the appropriate atmospherics, it would be there. I'm not looking for much, a state visit from Putin or Medvedev would do.

A Soviet born, Russian speaking Foreign Minister of Israel (the first, or was that Golda?), whose party represents one of the largest Russian diaspora communities in the world... you'd think he would be able to do more with Russia and its environs, publicly, than he has.

So far I'm not impressed.
If there is one place where Lieberman could help, it would be in restoring balance to relationships that are greatly out of balance solely for reasons of now irrelevant history. The Russian-Israeli relationship is still greatly out of balance, reflecting the Soviet-Israeli interests of 30 years past.

I'm just saying, I don't see him trying all that hard.

In light of recent articles and events, I've had to reappraise Lieberman's performance, at least as far as Russia is concerned. First came a revealing article which demonstrated - in spite of itself, it being Haaretz - that Lieberman is quite the well-behaved, forward thinking diplomat, when he wants to be. Then, it was announced today that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is scheduled to make an official state visit to Israel in January, the first by a Russian leader in five years - precisely the kind of metric I had previously described as indicative of Lieberman's success or failure.

There is little choice but to conclude that Lieberman is adeptly managing and expanding the Russian relationship, which has traditionally been a challenging one for Israel, even in the best of times. I stand corrected.
As a sidenote, Medvedev's visit is all the more interesting given that he is a Jew, the son of a Jewish mother and the first Jew to become President of Russia, much less enter the Kremlin in any capacity besides the following: doctor, scientist, military hero, foreigner.

I've personally confirmed Medvedev's Jewish identity with former Muscovites, who say that Medvedev's mother regularly attended the main synagogue in Moscow. The subject has not been broached much in Russian media, as Medvedev is Putin's man, and, well, Russian journalists know what's good for them, or they have an accident - there is freedom of choice in Russia. I wonder if anyone's bothered to tell the Arabs.

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