Israel’s new foreign minister dismayed the international community today with a rancorous analysis of the peace process and an announcement that the new government favours aggression rather than concessions to the Palestinians.
In his first speech since taking office, the rightwinger Avigdor Lieberman dismissed the last round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, arguing that Israeli concessions made in a bid to secure peace had all been fruitless.
“Those who want peace should prepare for war and be strong,” he said. “There is no country that made concessions like Israel. Since 1967 we gave up territory that is three times the size of Israel. We showed willingness. The Oslo process started back in 1993, and to this day I have not seen that we reached peace.”
Speaking to what the Associated Press describes as a roomful of “cringing diplomats”, the new foreign minister said Israel was not bound by the Annapolis peace talks. These were initiated in November 2007 to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and involved around 40 countries.
“The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis; nor did [the] Knesset,” said Lieberman, promising to honour only the US-initiated “road map” of 2002, which has long been in stalemate amid accusations from both sides.
Sounds like a declaration of war to me. Obama has to stamp on this, and hard, either very publicly or with some very tough diplomacy (which essentially shuts Lieberman right up) very quickly. If he doesn’t we’ll all reap the whirlwind and sooner rather than later I’d wager. His boss, Israeli PM Binjamin Netanyahu has sounded more conciliatory on this subject, however:
Check out this interview Netanyahu gave the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg today. Netanyahu says flatout that either the Obama administration deals with Iran’s nuclear development or Israel will have no choice but to act unilaterally (i.e, with bombs).
Pretty incredible. An Israeli attack on Iran would jeopadize a myriad of American interests in the region, starting with 130,000 US troops but Netanyahu talks as if he can call the shots without any regard for our interests. The fact is that, in the eyes of Iran (and the world), there is essentially no difference between an Israeli attack and one by us. Israel is viewed as our client. In other words, any blowback from an Israeli attack is as likely to be against us as against Israel. Americans in Iraq, or here at home, could pay the ultimate price.
President Obama needs to get on the phone and let Netanyahu know that Israel can take no action vis a vis Iran without full consultation with Washington. Obama is pursuing diplomacy which means, whether it lkes it or not, that Israel is too. And that, quite simply, means that Israel cannot act unilaterally as if it is a free agent. It isn’t. Like the Britain, Germany, Canada, or France, it cannot take unilateral actions that would endanger Americans.
It is also not a coincidence that Netanyahu trash talked Iran while US Special Envoy Holbrooke was holding the Obama administration’s first face-to-face meeting with an Iranian official in The Hague. This is in keeping with the pattern set by President Shimon Peres who sent a nasty greeting to the Iranian people simultaneously with Obama’s friendly overture. The name of the game is to make it impossible for Obama to achieve a breakthrough with Iran by always leaving the impression that America is in thrall to Israel. Clever. And dangerous.
Dangerous indeed. While these two men talk in this fashion it essentially makes no difference that Obama is pursuing a diplomatic tack with Iran. As the writer points out, both Netanyahu and Lieberman will be understood to be talking as American proxies unless Obama makes it clear they are not. The president couldn’t hide his discomfort when he addressed AIPAC as a candidate; despite the White House’s submission to the pro-Israel, now is the time to show whether or not he really intends to bring about change. The two state solution is the only viable means of resolving the Israel/Palestine issue and Obama (or Clinton and/or Holbrooke) needs to spell that out loud and clear!