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Avigdor Lieberman: Lame Duck Diplomacy

The following was taken from Jspace.com.  The article was written by Jspace Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Rob Lattin, who also blogs about Israeli and Middle Eastern foreign policy for Foreign Policy Blogs. 

Avigdor Lieberman: Lame Duck Diplomacy

Israel’s racist and radical foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

On Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman re-emphasized his belief that the Palestinian Authority should hold general elections, and continued his criticism of Mahmoud Abbas by telling Israel Radio, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] is a man of terrorism… He engages in political terrorism and I say clearly: The political terrorism that Abu Mazen engages in is more dangerous for us than the armed terrorism that [Hamas’s Gaza Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh and all the other Hamas leaders are involved with. It’s much more dangerous, because everything Abbas does is legitimized by Israel.” As could be expected, the Palestinian Authority condemned the foreign minister’s comments and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office distanced itself from them.

Anyone claiming Abbas is capable of bringing the Palestinians national sovereignty with defined borders and a peace accord with Israel is delusional. Generally speaking, he has done more harm than good; Lieberman’s not wrong on that point. But equally delusional is any individual who defends Lieberman’s ability to do the same for Israel, or be a respectable statesman for that matter.

In 2004, Lieberman proposed a ridiculous and racist plan for peace in which populations and territories of Israeli Jews and Arabs, including some Israeli Arabs, would be “separated.” The “Populated-Area Exchange Plan” proposed that Israeli Arab towns adjacent to Palestinian Authority areas be transferred to the PA, and only those Arab Israelis who migrated from the area to within Israel’s new borders and pledged their loyalty to the Jewish state would be allowed to remain citizens. The plan didn’t exactly go over well with the moderates and leftists. Then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon denounced the plan and defended Israel’s Arab citizens. A month later Lieberman was dismissed from the Knesset.

Lieberman has been no better as foreign minister, seizing the opportunity to embarrass and hurt the peace-process any chance he gets. In November 2008, speaking to the Knesset about his anger that then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had never made an official visit to Israel, he stated, “every self-respecting leader would have conditioned such meetings on reciprocation. If he wants to talks to us, he should come here, and if he doesn’t want to come, he can go to hell.”

At the time, the Egyptian premier was among the most important Muslim leaders to Israel. He was the president of one of only two Arab countries with a peace treaty with Israel, and was a major player in halting weapons smuggling to Gaza. Any peace treaty that would happen with the Palestinians would have required Egyptian support.

In 2010, following the flotilla incident in which nine Turks were killed during an attempt to illegally break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, Lieberman publicly stated that perhaps it was time Israel start funding the Kurdistan Workers Party, a Kurdish terrorist organization that Turkey actively battles. Lieberman was the only major Israeli official to break Netanyahu’s request that no one from the government or military comment on the incident. Turkey was Israel’s warmest Muslim ally and Netanyahu was trying to salvage relations. While Lieberman is by no means individually responsible for the deterioration of Israeli-Turkish relations, his comments are testament to his reactive and aggressive demeanor, and his inability to diplomatically and respectably represent Israel’s interests on an international scale.

In November 2011, Lieberman was the first foreign minister to sever ties between the Foreign Ministry and Mossad. He has since restored relations, but the entire debacle says it all: He can’t get along with states and people abroad or organizations and people at home.

Lieberman lacks diplomacy, patience, reason and the ability to choose his words carefully — all crucial characteristics for a foreign minister. He hurts Israel’s international image and the peace process. A small country like Israel needs a strong foreign minister to handle its complicated situations, which at times are unfair towards the Jewish state. It just doesn’t need Avigdor Lieberman.

 

 

Author

Rob Lattin

Rob Lattin recently completed his Master's in International Affairs at the City College of New York, where he won the Frank Owarish prize for graduating at the top of his class. His thesis explored Democratic Peace Theory and its applicability to small powers, and used the relationship between Turkey and Israel as its case study. Rob received his B.A. in Near Eastern Studies and Political Science, graduating from the University of Arizona with honors.

Rob has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived in Haifa, Israel. In addition to blogging for FPB, he is the Foreign Affairs Correspondent for Jspace.com. He currently splits his time between Washington D.C. and New York City.

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