- Although the timing is suspicious, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu probably did not launch an operation in Gaza to forestall a developing accommodation with Hamas. The Israeli incursion that sparked the latest conflagration in Gaza was of a kind that Israel carries out on a routine basis. It was, from all appearances, a routine intelligence operation gone awry. Gaza has been a steady source of political losses for Netanyahu, this time as well. His willingness to consent to Qatari cash coming into the Strip was unpopular in Israel, as was his quick agreement to a ceasefire. There was no good reason for Netanyahu to have intentionally gone down this path. Read more at LobeLog
Earlier today, it was reported that Avigdor Lieberman, the head of Israel’s right wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, has agreed to join the government of Benjamin Netanyahu in the post of Defense
Minister. This is a concerning development for a number of reasons.
The agreement between Lieberman and Netanyahu comes in the wake of Netanyahu’s negotiations to bring the Zionist Union into the government, during which Netanyahu made a point of refusing to offer the Defense portfolio to ZU Chairman Isaac Herzog. While it might seem that Netanyahu turned to Lieberman only because he was unable to come to satisfactory terms with Herzog, Labor Party MK Stav Shaffir is likely correct in observing that “It is now clear that Bibi used (Herzog) in order to bring Lieberman into the government.” That is, Herzog was used as bait. Read more at FMEP’s blog, Facts on the Ground
My latest piece at LobeLog asks whether the announcement of a joint list between Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu means that we’re a step closer to an attack on Iran. I believe the answer is no, but we’re certainly not farther away either.
This piece originally published at LobeLog
The Obama Administration is scrambling to keep itselfout of a difficult position between two of its most important Middle East allies, Turkey and Israel.
The two countries have seen their relations deteriorate for years now, highlighted by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s dressing down of Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in 2009 and the confrontation over Israel’s killing of nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara, a ship trying to run the blockade of Gaza last year.
Analysts have a variety of opinions on the importance of each country to US interests in the region, but US diplomats certainly want to keep a strong relationship with both. Congress, pushed by domestic pressures, especially pro-Israel lobbying groups, has a different approach.
The potential for problems for US diplomacy was previewed in March, 2010. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, which had always been reserved on the matter of the Armenian Genocide (perpetrated by the Turks during and after World War I) issued a statement calling for American recognition of that crime. Turkey recalled its ambassador in response.
The matter went no further, but it illustrated the tensions between politics and diplomacy.
The pro-Israel lobby promoted the Armenian Genocide resolution. Now, however, they are supporting Netanyahu and potential rapprochement between Turkey and Israel. But that resolution was a signal that this could change, if Turkey’s relations with Israel degenerate further.
Israel and Turkey are at odds, but still technically allied. The Obama Administration wants to mend those fences, not tear them further asunder.
The immediate issue is Turkey’s demand for an apology for the Mavi Marmara killings. The UN will soon release a UN report, delayed now until August 20, which will state that Israel’s blockade in Gaza is legal, but that it used excessive force on the Mavi Marmara. If Israel apologizes before that report is released, it will blunt the effect of the latter conclusion. Continue reading
In my latest piece at Souciant, where we continue to preview the upcoming Babylon Times site, I interview Daniel Levy of the New America Foundation on the possible September UN vote on Palestinian statehood, America’s role in the region, Israel’s drift to the right and more. Please share.
Israel has apparently begun working to press Europe and the United States to try to save the embattled regime of Hosni Mubarak. Ha’aretz reports that Netanyahu asked other countries to tone down criticism of Mubarak. However, while the headline says this came from Netanyahu, the article only mentions the foreign ministry, and, as we have seen many times, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman writes his own foreign policy and sometimes acts without necessarily coordinating with the Prime Minister’s office.
In either case, Israel is once again showing itself to be horribly out of touch with the realities of the world they live in. There is only one, very slim, possibility for Mubarak’s survival and that is massive violence. This would probably fail as well, and if it succeeded, it probably would not succeed for long. And in the aftermath, Israel, the US and Europe would be facing a much angrier country that would be far less concerned about maintaining good relations outside the Arab world.
In any case, it doesn’t seem that anyone in Europe, nor the Obama administration, is interested in interfering with Egypt directly, though one suspects they’d all prefer to see Mubarak remain long enough to pass the mantle off to someone who would maintain Egypt’s current stances in foreign policy. The fact that they all were happy to work with Mubarak for thirty years despite his awful human rights record and refusal to democratize the country indicates that these are not the concerns of the foreigners.
Israel’s urging for other countries to prioritize Egyptian “stability” is simply code for maintaining the status quo, at least as far as Egypt’s real positions and actions in regard to the Palestinians, to Israel, to Iran and the Middle East in general. They seem to have completely missed the fact that the status quo has already crumbled in Egypt. Things are changing, and Israel’s desperation for holding the status quo is not only foolhardy, it reflects an inability to deal with changes that are already happening (increasing public pressure in Turkey, Europe, the US and elsewhere to free the Palestinians from occupation) and an even greater inability to deal with even more changes that are coming. Continue reading
As I sat to write these words, a pro-democracy demonstration in Tel Aviv was winding down. Reports I received from colleagues at the march estimated the number at 20,000 in attendance, and YNET reports 15,000. This is most welcome news, and one hopes it is an indication that Israelis have woken up and recognize the threat that has grown in their midst. Another, more important, albeit much slimmer hope, is that they will also collectively realize that the side toward fascism is the inevitable result of a society that is both embroiled in constant conflict and is holding millions of others under siege or under military occupation.
Israelis have been forced to the streets out of self-interest, the decay of Israel’s democratic structures, however imperfect they may always have been. Israeli blogger Noam Sheizaf sent out a tweet from the march saying that the “loudest booing to Ehud Barak, labor, for taking part in Netanyahu’s government.” But if we put a face to the assault on Israeli democracy, we inevitably see Avigdor Lieberman.
Is Lieberman, who makes the claim, with some justification at least for the moment, that he now represents the mainstream of Israeli society, really the boogeyman many of us make him out to be? Well, we have a chance to see it in his own words.
On Friday, Yediot Ahoronot, the major Israeli daily paper, ran an extensive interview with Lieberman. As far as I know, it appeared only in the print edition and only in Hebrew. For various reasons, I cannot reprint the entire interview here, but a few pieces of it will serve to allow Lieberman to demonstrate just who he really is. So, with my comments interspersed below, here is Avigdor Lieberman…
“This is an interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed: when the left wing wants to delegitimize someone in the right wing, they always find someone from the national camp to help them. Likud people like Dan Meridor and Benny Begin gave the left wing the seal of approval to attack me. This reminds me of global anti-Semitism, the anti-Semites also always find some Israeli to help them attack Jews. “ Continue reading