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Lieberman not at fault
By Dror Zeevi
Ynet / Israel Opinion
29 Dec 2010

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4005938,00.html

The state is not managed independently. It is being run by politicians, and their failed conduct may exact an incredibly high price. For example, itís difficult to describe graver damage than the one caused by President Robert Mugabe to Zimbabweís status and image. The state which once upon a time was the pride of Arica is today a pale shadow of itself and is hated by the whole world. Foreign Minister Lieberman is working towards bringing Israel to the same position.

Lieberman is a failed individual who conducts our foreign policy in the worst way imaginable, while causing Israel irreversible international damage. Only his immediate dismissal could somewhat minimize the damage he has caused.

As we know, Israelís global status isnít too formidable. Most nations view it as an occupier that oppresses its Palestinian residents and utilizes its immense power to raze their homes. The struggle to improve the stateís image is no less difficult than the battle against terror, and in strategic terms it is no less important.

For years, Israelís prime ministers and foreign ministers were able to cope with much success with the need to prevent a quick escalation of our global status. However, all their achievements are cast away in the face of Liebermanís statements.

We can debate the wisdom inherent in an apology to Turkey. Logic dictates that we should find the balance between Turkeyís demands and our own, and this precisely is the mission of skilled diplomats. Yet even if we accept the foreign ministerís position that the demand for an apology should be rejected out of hand, the right approach is to present the proper combination between unequivocal desire to improve the ties and the need to maintain our national honor.

The role of the ďbad guyĒ in this maneuver whose job it is to reject Turkeyís demand should have been played by someone else in the government; possibility even Liebermanís party member, Internal Security Minister Aharonovitch. The foreign minister is the one who is supposed to talk about the longtime friendship between the states and our desire for good neighborly relations. Yet in our amateurish state everything is possible, including a top diplomat who views his job as eliminating any chance for restoring the stateís foreign relations infrastructure.

Seeing the big picture
What is true in respect to Turkey is doubly true in respect to the negotiations with the Palestinians. Anyone familiar with the processes undergone by the Palestinians realizes that Abbas is interested in negotiations and that we can finalize a reasonable peace deal with him. Yet letís assume thatís not the case. Letís assume that Abbas is a hidden Hamas supporter who will keep on deceiving the world until he gains control of Tel Aviv.

Even then, the foreign minister needs to see the big picture and aspire to improve Israelís foreign relations rather than ruin them. Even the Palestinians understand that. Let someone else in the government accuse them of hypocrisy. The foreign minister is the one who should say that although we have no clear proof that the Palestinians are willing to compromise, we shall continue to act tirelessly in order to secure understandings and peace with them.

Yet despite all of the above, the truth is that Lieberman isnít at fault. Even if we donít like it, these are his views, this is his personality, this is the way he conducts himself, and this is what his voters like. Thatís why they elected him. But just as itís not a good idea to appoint a pacifistic lecturer as defense minister, we must not appoint a thug lacking minimal tact as foreign minister.

Hence, the main and possibly only culprit is the prime minister. Netanyahu is indeed halfheartedly trying to minimize Liebermanís damages, yet to begin with he should not have appointed him. It was possible to find many posts and perks for him without entrusting our entire global campaign in his hands.

At this point in time, with Israelís foreign relations are approaching total collapse, the only way open to Netanyahu in order to prevent long-term damage to the state is to immediately fire Lieberman from the post of foreign minister.

Professor Dror Zeevi is a lecturer at Ben Gurion Universityís Middle Eastern Studies Department

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