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With Something Less than Solomon’s Wisdom…

April 2, 2009

During the years when the little idiot from Texas was president of this great country of ours, when the United States was not particularly interested in pressing Israel to seriously negotiate with the Palestinians, the Israeli strategy – knowing it would go nowhere was to closely cooperate with Washington, to talk of negotiating while continuing to build settlements in the Occupied Territories and tighten the screws on the Palestinians – both in Gaza and the West Bank. In the language of basketball, it was faking to the left while moving to the right. Produced good p.r. in this country where liberals and some sincere folk on the left clung to every little crumb of hope the Israelis or the little idiot threw their way. Annapolis, a few vacuous statements by the little idiot calling for a Palestinian rights, Condoleeza Rice’s pathetic Middle East statements of `creating a new Middle East’ while Palestinians and Lebanese were being slaughtered – first in Lebanon and more recently in Gaza – all come to mind.

Such ambiguities – of Israel’s leadership talking peace while building settlements and preparing for new wars – no longer exist.

We can all see more clearer now, can’t we, now that Binjamin is Israel’s prime minister? A man with close ties to Colorado – his father taught at the University of Denver – Netanyahu, with something less than the wisdom of Solomon, has chosen a man who began an illustrious political career as a Bucharest nightclub bouncer, as Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Given Israel’s political history these past years – it is somewhat difficult to believe that Israel could have surged so much further to the right – how much further is there to go? – but this is the direction their government has taken.

Some of this political orientation is due to the situation on the ground in Israel where military rather than political solutions dominate the thinking of its political (and military) class. But to some degree Israel’s shift to the `bonkers’ right is a response to the election of Barack Obama, whose allegiance to Israel, despite his AIPAC appearance last year, remains suspect. The cooperation with the United States – while still strong – is somewhat strained. US strategic priorities have shifted away from bombing Iran (at least temporarily) and more for shoring up US strained relations with its Arab allies – especially those that provide the world with oil – . Israel is adjusting to the new US political diplomatic, as limited as it might be, rather reluctantly

The Israelis knew that Bush and Cheney were with them 103% – and encouraging them to play a bellicose military role in the Middle East, be it against Hezbollah or Hamas, threatening Syria and really doing their darndest to push even the US into a war again Iran. Obama supports them a mere 98% …and this is not enough. It is not as if the partnership has collapsed – far from it – but in this coming period, the junior partner, Israel, understands it will be (gently and modestly for sure) pressured by the senior partner, the US, to do unthinkable things – like stop building walls and settlements, negotiate with Hamas, open the gates to Gaza ending the blockage there and end Israel’s jihad against Iran. Or so they fear.

In response Israel has elected a yet more nationalist – and reactionary – government, one that does not feel itself so tightly bound to Washington’s dictates. It will pursue – and this is really a troublesome prospect – a somewhat more independent path concerning how to respond to Washington’s pressure. Netanyahu and Lieberman recognize that the global financial crisis has somewhat weakened Washington’s hold – not only on Israel but on the world as a whole. Thus one of the first announcements of the Netanyahu government claims that while there negotiations with the Palestinians will continue, the prospect of an independent Palestinian state is out of the question. What could be more blatant snub to the Obama Administration?

Clear and sharp differences have emerged between the US and Israel over Obama’s softened position on Iran. With the US (finally) looking for Iranian cooperation in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel – still very much on the warpath warpath with Teheran (or would like to be) is planely worried. Oh for the good old days when Cheney Rumsfeldt, John Bolton and all openly plotted with Tel Aviv! To the contrary, recently there have been several sharp rebukes of Israel’s Iran saber-rattling (Ashkinaze’s visit to Washington where the Obama Administration refused to even talk about military action against Iran, Mullen’s public warning to Israel on Iran on his visit there).

The Obama Administration is getting edgy – concerned that Israel might take military action on its own – and that Washington’s hold on Israel is slipping. And that is exactly the impression the Israeli ruling circles wish to convey. A recent piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz suggests that as a result of Lieberman’s appointment that Israel will become more isolated. Likely Netanyahu chose Lieberman EXACTLY for this reason, freeing the Jewish state (or so it thinks) from constraints to act in close coordination with the United States. Fearing such a development, on Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Israel, it was reported that she pressured the (outgoing) Prime Minister Olmert to sign a statement promising not take any kind of unilateral action without first consulting Washington, which suggests they are planning/or considering unilateral actions without consulting Washington.

Is it a short-term tension, …the onset of a new strained relationship based on emerging global realities and a growing global insecurity in this `period of transition’…more bluntly called the beginning of a global depression? It is far from a divorce, not yet even a separation…but the `marriage counseling’ has most definitely begun.

No one exemplifies this new Israeli posture more than its esteemed new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. In what follows below, Juan Cole compares Lieberman to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the latter coming off alot better than the former. This from Juan Cole’s blog:

“Avigdor Lieberman, the Moldovan night club bouncer, is now foreign minister of Israel. The world has had a lot of fun laughing at the pronouncements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who stands falsely accused of threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the map. But Ahmadinejad has protested that it would be wrong to kill large numbers of civilians.”

“In contrast, Lieberman has threatened to wipe at least two countries, Egypt and Palestine, off the map. Monstrously, he suggested bombing the Aswan Dam, which would have the effect of murdering all 80 million Egyptians and sweeping them into the Mediterranean in a vast continental African tsunami.”

“Lieberman promptly announced on assuming office that the Mideast peace process is dead. Well, at least we have an outbreak of frankness.”

“Whereas Ahmadinejad was humiliated by Columbia University president Lee Bollinger on his visit to that university, which provoked public protests, Lieberman’s acceptance into the Israeli government has been greeted mildly and he was allowed to come to the Brookings Institution and meet with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Lieberman is an Central/Eastern European ultra-nationalist in the mold of Slobodan Milosevic and Jorg Haider, and it is shameful that he was allowed into the government and more shameful that this travesty has passed without a peep in the civilized world.”

“The The Electronic Intifada lists “Some of Avigdor Lieberman’s infamous statements”:

# In 1998, Lieberman called for the flooding of Egypt by bombing the Aswan Dam in retaliation for Egyptian support for Yasser Arafat.

# In 2001, as Minister of National Infrastructure, Lieberman proposed that the West Bank be divided into four cantons, with no central Palestinian government and no possibility for Palestinians to travel between the cantons.

# In 2002, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Lieberman in a Cabinet meeting saying that the Palestinians should be given an ultimatum that “At 8am we’ll bomb all the commercial centers … at noon we’ll bomb their gas stations … at two we’ll bomb their banks …”

# In 2003, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Lieberman called for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide the buses to take them there.

# In May 2004, Lieberman proposed a plan that called for the transfer of Israeli territory with Palestinian populations to the Palestinian Authority. Likewise, Israel would annex the major Jewish settlement blocs on the Palestinian West Bank. If applied, his plan would strip roughly one-third of Israel’s Palestinian citizens of their citizenship. A “loyalty test” would be applied to those who desired to remain in Israel. This plan to trade territory with the Palestinian Authority is a revision of Lieberman’s earlier calls for the forcible transfer of Palestinian citizens of Israel from their land. Lieberman stated in April 2002 that there was “nothing undemocratic about transfer.”

# Also in May 2004, he said that 90 percent of Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens would “have to find a new Arab entity” in which to live beyond Israel’s borders. “They have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost,” he said.

# In May 2006, Lieberman called for the killing of Arab members of Knesset who meet with members of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.’
Nice.

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