Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Tale of Two Foreign Ministers

Avigdor Lieberman this morning demonstrated once again why Netanyahu should get rid of him, when he launched a blunt series of threats at the Assad regime, saying that if there's another war between Israel and Syrian, not only will Syria lose, the Assad family will also lose.

Lieberman is probably right that a threat to the regime will probably worry them, since they care about that more than most things. He's probably wrong that Israel could make it happen. In any case, it's exactly the kind of talk a foreign minister - the top diplomat, for crying out loud! - is expected not to make. There are good things one could say about LIeberman, but he's clearly in the wrong job.

Will Netanyahu get rid of him? He should. Given the composition of the present Knesset, he can, too. He could reposition himself a bit to the center (where he personally already almost is); this would cost him about 25 MKs from his present coalition, including even the Ztipi Hotobeli wing of his own party. In return, it would bring him some 33 MKs from Kadima and the Shelli-Yehimovich wing of the Labor party. But he won't, Netanyahu. It would be too bold a step for his image.

Meanwhile, Lieberman's idiotic comments were a response to the comments of Walid Mualem, his Syrian counterpart. Mualem yesterday threatened not Israel's military, nor its leaders. He brazenly threatened the civilians in its cities.
"Israel knows that if it declares war on Syria, such a war will reach its cities as well," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Wednesday following his meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos.
That's right. The second most important man in the Syrian government announced that his country will purposefully target the citizens of Israel's cities, should hostilities break out. I expect Amnesty, HRW, the UN, and all the usual suspects will loudly condemn this threat - assuming they ever hear about it. It's not to be found at the BBC, NYT, or Guardian websites this mornings; I guess it's not newsworthy. Just as Lieberman's outburst also won't be newsworthy tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Lieberman does not bother me very much as he is a good counter to the underlings of dictatorship representatives. He would be better suited for another position, in my opinion in the defense ministry.

I mean seriously, who would want to piss off an already pissed off Russian Israeli?


Anonymous said...

about the only news on Lieberman and his staff I get is from you and he kind of gets dearer and dearer to me because he seems to be as good on the posturing and strutting game as any Mediterranean male.

It is probably very unwise and stupid but also highly refreshing when one has reached a stage were the vapid talk gets to one more and more and all one sees with the inner eye when politicians talk are layers and layers of veils fluttering in the wind

On the other hand I hope my rebellious mood is far far from mainstream because in all likelihood the vapid talk is better for maintaining the status quo which might be the best deal on the table for the time being provided that negotiations start again.


Anonymous said...

the London Times quotes Mualem and Barak on Syria
I wonder if the "good" Lebanese will like this restoration of Syria to "decency" by the US - must remember to check Michael Young on it - my favourite March 14-concerns-explainer

NormanF said...

Lieberman's honesty bothers you but Syria's threats to destroy don't. Its time someone told the truth about Syria unlike say the idiot writers over at Haaretz who say Israel has nothing to fear by surrendering the Golan Heights to a brutal regime allied with North Korea and Iran. Nothing at all.

Yaacov said...

I don't think I said that, Norman.

Sylvia said...

Muallem's threat came in response to Barak's call for peace negotiations because in his words, if there is no peace there will be a war. There has been no government of which Barak was a part that he didn't drag into talks with Syria.Let's remember that the second intifada broke when Barak was Prime Minister and he put the Palestinians on the back burner in order to engage in talks with Syria. He also dragged Olmert into secret talks with Syria while, all along, Syria was building its nuclear facility.
Now Ari Shavit, Barak's mouthpiece in Haaretz, published an article calling for talks with Syria.

Hence Lieberman's comment which in my view, was intended more for Barak than the Syrians and therefore was appropriate.

Things have changed in the region, but Barak doesn't seem to have noticed.Returning the Golan at this point means handing it to the Iranians.

Avigdor said...

Is this an issue of what Lieberman said, or how he said it? There is no question that, compared to Israel's life-long diplomats, he is clumsy, crude and probably incompetent to run the Foreign Ministry.

Do so many people in Israel contest what he actually said, though? Does any Israeli think the Assad regime should be spared the next time its terrorist proxies launch a war that depopulates a million Israelis from their homes?

This is such a non-issue. Lieberman has classic nationalist instincts, and his style plays well to the millions of Russian Israelis (and others) who are tired of getting whipped around by Europe and the Arabs.

The real issue is not what Lieberman says, but what the State of Israel does, or is willing to do. If Assad really thought that Israel was willing to splatter his brains across a Damascus sidewalk, his generals would not be engaged in hyperbole.

Israel used to say nothing, and do the impossible military operations that left no question who was in charge. Today there is all this bullshit talk, but when it was time to rip Hezbollah apart once and for all, or to eliminate Hamas in Gaza, no one in the political leadership was willing to finish the job.

People who have murdered Israelis in cold blood are walking the streets of Ramallah, Gaza and Beirut, fearing nothing. Is Lieberman going to do something about that? Is Netanyahu? Is Livni or Barak?

Gavin said...

I don't read that the same as you Yaacov. I see Leiberman there telling Syria to stop making threats, which may be a wise move. Every Arab leader knows that Israel just wants to be left alone & has no intention of attacking anyone unless provoked first, so the bombast & bluster coming out of Syria and Hizbollah must be for local consumption... they're prepping their people for a possible attack of their own.

It's important to separate Arab leaders from the general idiocy on the streets. Neither Hizbollah nor Syrian leadership believe that Israel has any further territorial ambitions or desire to start another war. They know emphatically that Israel will not attack them unless they threaten Israel or attack first. Their words have to be seen in that context, ie why have they started making a lot of noise about Israel launching an attack when they know it to be false.

Cheers, Gavin.

Barry Meislin said...

If you are an entrenched dictatorship you must create an impression that your enemy must be about to attack to you.

You must claim that you are ready and willing to engage in peace talks while blaming your enemy for desiring war instead of peace.

And you must do this time and time again so that the dupes in the West either begin to agree with your position or become so confused as to be rendered opinionless on the matter.

And what goes for the dupes in the West is also true for the dupes in the country of your enemy.

Israel is buffeted from all sides. Threats of war on its cities.
Threats of its annihilation.
And yet insistence on peace talks.
Buildups of scores of thousands of rockets and missiles by its neighbors.
Exhortations that it not engage in pre-emptive strikes by its friends.
Extensive criticism that it engaged in attempts to prevent rocket fire by practically everyone.

Lies and misrepresentations by the global media on a massive scale.

What the world wants to prevent, so it seems, is a replay of the 1967 war (assuming it can be replayed in any form).

What Israel will get is a replay of October 1973.