Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Breath Of Fresh Air From The Israeli Foreign Ministry

The rather right-wing One Jerusalem website, in an April 2nd article, characterized new Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as having the right message but of being the wrong messenger. They describe the vilification of Lieberman in the media:
Critics of Lieberman included the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, western public officials, editorial boards, and most anyone else involved in foreign affairs.

In the vast majority of the reports Lieberman is depicted as a 'racist' who hates Arabs. He is also seen as an international outlaw who is challenging the very foundations of Middle Eastern international relations.
The Jerusalem Post covered Lieberman's speech to his new staff at the foreign ministry. Here are a few highlights:
I think that we have seen the cheapening of many concepts, first and foremost of the word 'peace.' The fact that we say the word 'peace' 20 times a day will not bring peace any closer. There have been two governments here that took far-reaching measures: the Sharon government and the Olmert government. They took dramatic steps and made far-reaching proposals. We have seen the disengagement and witnessed the Annapolis accord. I read in the newspaper about the far-reaching proposals made by the prime minister to the other side, which I do not think have ever been made, outside of Barak's visit to Camp David.

Israel Beiteinu was not then part of the coalition; Avigdor Lieberman was not the foreign minister. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't have hampered bringing peace. But I do not see that it brought peace. To the contrary. It is precisely when we made all the concessions that I saw the Durban Conference, I saw two countries in the Arab world suddenly sever relations, recalling their ambassadors - Mauritania and Qatar. Qatar suddenly becoming extremist.

We are also losing ground every day in public opinion. Does anyone think that concessions, and constantly saying 'I am prepared to concede,' and using the word 'peace' will lead to anything? No, that will just invite pressure, and more and more wars. 'Si vis pacem, para bellum' - if you want peace, prepare for war, be strong. We certainly desire and want peace, but the other side also bears responsibility."

Am I the only one who is cheering these words? The Foreign Minister is absolutely correct that Israeli concessions have been interpreted as weakness, both in the Arab world and among Israel's critics in Europe and elsewhere. Withdrawing unilaterally from Gaza didn't bring the opening for peace that Prime Minister Sharon hoped for. It only brought more bloodshed: bloodshed initiated by Hamas. It also brought more international condemnation. It didn't matter that not a single Israeli remained in Gaza. It didn't matter that Egypt also controls a border with Gaza. Somehow Israel was still guilty of "occupation" and "oppression" because it wouldn't allow the free flow of goods, including weapons, and people, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.

Foreign Minister Lieberman is also right to put the onus for peacemaking on the Palestinians. Palestinian President Abbas is boycotting the new Israeli government even as Prime Minister Netanyahu is talking about strengthening the Abbas-led Fatah government and moving ahead with the peace process. To me the speech is a breath of fresh air. It's about time Israel had a Foreign Minister who is not timid and not afraid to speak the truth.

One Jerusalem has its own objections to Foreign Minister Lieberman. He is an outspoken proponent of a two state solution who has said that he would gladly give up his West Bank home for peace. One Jerusalem doesn't support a two state solution.

Usually if you are criticized from both the left and right you are doing something right. Next week I'll look at Foreign Minister Lieberman's record and statements in more detail. While some respectful criticism of and concern about the Foreign Minister is certainly justified much of the media attacks on him are certainly not.

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