17 March 2009

17 March 2009 - The worst outcome?

I have to agree with Jeffrey Goldberg here. The appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Israel's foreign affairs minister is both wrongheaded and just plain wrong.

It's wrong because of Lieberman's bigoted stance towards Israeli Arabs, whom he says ought to be required to take an oath of loyalty to the state. He also has views on democracy that are strongly objectionable, including his desire to increase the power of the executive relative to the judiciary.

It's wrongheaded because Israel is facing an unfavorable international climate, including an American administration whose commitment to Israeli security is uncertain and global public opinion that has already been inflamed against the Jewish state. Lieberman's views make him a poor choice as Israel's chief emissary.

Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu is gambling that Lieberman will soon be removed from his post anyway, due to criminal investigations against him. He may hope to hold Lieberman's party in the Likud's governing coalition even if its leader is gone (as happened with Aryeh Deri's Shas party).

Even so, it is a huge risk to take, and not worth the price of Israel's moral integrity. Some of Lieberman's ideas, such as territorial swaps with the Palestinians have some merit--provided that the resident populations agree. Israel Arab leaders also bear some of the blame for the mistrust that made Lieberman's success possible. Still, this appointment is a mistake.

Those are my initial thoughts. I look forward to comments on the above.

11 Comments:

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Gilad said...

I think the oath issue will turn out to have been an empty slogan, just to get him in the political door. As was the civil union issue which he seems to have put aside in order to get into the government. And really, since the government will exist 1-1.5 years before the next elections, does it matter anyway? :)

 
At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Israel's foreign relations need Netanyahu for the English Speaking world, Livni for Western Europe, and Lieberman for Russia. In case you didn't notice Egypt already said it was willing to give Lieberman another chance. Lieberman has been under investigation by the police for 10 years without charges being brought and the Supreme Court has given the police one last chance to put up or shut up. So Joel is probably off base on the prospects of Netanyahu hoping Lieberman will be another Deri.
If Lieberman became foreign minister and the world gangs up on Israel for engaging him, it could set up a honeymoon of those who are pariahs for the West, in this case Israel and resurgent Russia. Lieberman is well known and not ineffective on Russian television. As for Russia this fits in with its traditional ambitions for influence in the Middle East.
At this stage however, it does not look as if Bibi can cobble together a right wing government that can work. The scenario of Bibi returning his mandate to Peres cannot be excluded. But before there would be new elections, Livni would be given a chance to form the government. In order to have a viable government she would approach Likud on the same rotation basis that has been rejected, only this time she would begin as Prime Minister. If Likud refuses, she would have to get at least United Torah Judaism in a possible Center Left Coalition. But to get Labor to sit with Lieberman will be no easy task. Yet that is the very nature of Israel's conscociational politics, to govern with those you utterly disagree with and cannot stand. The right wing as opposition would still make progress on two states very difficult, and thus the much maligned Israel political system does enable the electorate's desires to be ascertained and to be implemented in part. The bottom line of the last election is that the majority of the Israeli electorate is not interested in a Palestinian state without changes in the Palestinian's radical jihad political culture, and whether Bibi or Tzipi is in the driver's seat, the hoped for Two State solution will not be easy to achieve. The fact is that the Israeli electorate is angry and frustrated from the inability to stop rockets which hangs terror over their heads 24/7. Israel's politicians should exercise statesmanship and leadership and come together with a unity government that can give the Israeli people the sense that there is some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Could Tzipi end up doing what Bibi is now failing to do? Imagine a government with Tzipi as PM, Netanyahu as Finance Minister, Barak as Defense Minister, and them getting behind Lieberman as Foreign Minister? What would that mean for the integration of the Russian Jewish Aliyah into a more unified Israeli polity, having all Israel, Dylan style, defend one of its known neighborhood bullies. Presenting Israel's case to the world will be one of that government's primary responsibilities. And if Egypt can accept Lieberman, why not the Israeli body politic? We must rise above the person's flaws (provided they are not actionable in a court of law) to what it is the person represents and make the formation of Israeli governments into one of increasing effectiveness in both the domestic and international arenas.

 
At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Joel I completely agree. I think its a horrible choice. I think it also destroys the claim that Lieberman supporter like to make that he is a different sort of politician. One who puts the country first. Well if that was the case he would not have demanded that job.
I think that Bibi should also show some leadership. If labour and Kadima wont go into the government. He should take the brave decision and call for new elections. This government is not only unworkable but is not in Israel’s economic or political interests. The vast majority of Israelis wanted a unity government. Not this narrow religious right wing administration.

 
At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it doesn't matter at all because he is going to jail soon. before the gov. starts. so don't worry about it.
for sho.

Shani.

 
At 8:20 PM, Anonymous L. King said...

The alliance doesn't surprise me. Israeli politics has always gone for the concept of a majority lead coalition government. This doesn't have to be the case - Canada has had moderately stable and fabulously productive minority governments. This is an option that Netanyahu should have considered. By balancing off demands from left and right he could have remained in power and widened his support from the middle.

 
At 2:08 AM, Anonymous an israeli said...

Frankly, Joel, I think it's a bit pathetic to talk about preserving Israel's "moral integrity" given the recent testimonies of soldiers who served in operation cast lead, widely reported in Ha'aretz and Ma'ariv (full details in this weekend's edition). Any claim Israel might have had to "moral integrity" is long gone. The issue you pose regarding Lieberman is merely an unimportant quibble in the larger scheme. Whether Lieberman will be appointed or not is simply irrelevant. Israel, in an important sense, has become what Lieberman embodies.

Best remove those blinders you've got on.
http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1072440.html

 
At 3:10 AM, Blogger Joel said...

Hello again "Israeli"-

I appreciate your comment, but as usual we disagree.

The uncorroborated, unexamined "testimonies" of a few soldiers in Cast Lead--gleaned after extreme left activist groups placed newspaper ads virtually begging for atrocity stories to be told--cannot stain the integrity of the IDF soldiers who served with honor in Gaza.

I have to ask: If you have so little respect for your countrymen, why do you use your nationality as a pseudonym when you post comments on this blog?

 
At 10:37 AM, Anonymous an israeli said...

Thanks for the response, but these testimonies are not the result of leftist fishing. Just in case you haven't read, these testimonies were given at an event held by a Mechina Kdam Tzvait (a training school some people attend before going to the military). The testimonies were completely unsolicited, and the head of the Mechina, according to his acocunt, was startled to hear them. He then reported to IDF authorities expressing his concern over these testimonies. The journalists who broke the story did not rely on leftist sources but on the video of that night, released by the head of the Mechina, someone who, by virtue of his role, is committed to service and the IDF. The IDF, at least, says this is serious and will begin an investigation. But if history can tell us anything, it's likely that nothing will come out of it. At any rate, per your point, it seems that the soldiers stand on solid ground and there were no leftist organizations involved in obtaining the information (as if that's somehow wrong, but never mind that for now). I really think you should read the full article in Ha'aretz.

As for my name, I make the point of saying I'm an Israeli so I won't be considered a crazy who has no idea what he's talking about when professing leftist views. I am proud of being an Israeli and I love Israel. However I lament the turn it has taken and am anguished at the reality that I confront. Hopefully at some point, before it's too late, things will change. The latest election is evidence that this change is not forthcoming.

 
At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all detractors of the admittedly imperfect Israeli democracy, the results of the negotiations between parties to produce a government will result in a truly representative Israeli government and a strong Reformist political opposition. Thus Israeli democracy finds ways of improving itself ever so slowly. Will this Israeli governmental situation result in America enabled to play its sought after role of being the peacemaker? This Israeli political dispensation is not a bad one for such efforts, but the Arabs are also going to have play ball. One thing is for sure, there is no fast track to peace.

 
At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all detractors of the admittedly imperfect Israeli democracy, the results of the negotiations between parties to produce a government will result in a truly representative Israeli government and a strong Reformist political opposition. Thus Israeli democracy finds ways of improving itself ever so slowly. Will this Israeli governmental situation result in America enabled to play its sought after role of being the peacemaker? This Israeli political dispensation is not a bad one for such efforts, but the Arabs are also going to have play ball. One thing is for sure, there is no fast track to peace.

 
At 7:48 AM, Blogger SteveMagid said...

The campaign Lieberman should have run by Daniel Gordis.

 

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