Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
By appointing Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely as deputy foreign minister on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have tried to solve some internal Likud problems, but he did not help Israel’s position in the world.
One can only imagine the cables diplomats from the US to New Zealand, Britain to Spain, sent their home offices regarding the new government: “A narrow hard-right government with the Foreign Ministry to be run day-by-day by Hotovely, a proponent of a one-state solution who believes Jews should be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, and is very close to the settlement community.”
In other words, Hotovely represents the opposite of everything much of the world, including US President Barack Obama, wants to see in Israel.
On Wednesday Obama said he wanted to see policies and actions from both Israel and the Palestinians that would show their commitment to a two-state solution. On Thursday Netanyahu sent to the Foreign Ministry as his deputy a one-state advocate who believes Israel should apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, give the Palestinians full citizenship and live with a large Arab minority.
Netanyahu’s refusal to appoint a full-time foreign minister, and to instead keep that portfolio for himself for the time being, is an indication that he is holding that job open for someone else who he hopes may join the government down the line.
Preferably, from his point of view, this would be the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog, but quite possibly Avigdor Liberman, if and when he gets tired of sharing the opposition benches with Meretz’s Zehava Gal-On and the Joint List’s Haneen Zoabi.
Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said Wednesday that there would probably not be any significant diplomatic fallout from the appointment – Ze’ev Elkin, another opponent of the two-state solution, served in the deputy foreign minister post recently and the roof did not fall in. Furthermore, Avigdor Liberman, with his views at odds with much of the world, was a full-fledged foreign minister and Israel’s foreign relations did not collapse.
But the problem with Hotovely’s appointment is both the mixed message it sends, and what could have been.
Regarding the mixed message, the world will once again see in the Foreign Ministry a right-wing and strongly ideological personality who, like Liberman, does not agree with some of the fundamental diplomatic policies of the prime minister.
And regarding what could have been, Netanyahu – well aware of the country’s difficult diplomatic standing – could have put in that position a face that would have been “presentable” to the world: someone like former US ambassador Michael Oren, from Kulanu, or even a Yuval Steinitz, Gilad Erdan or Tzachi Hanegbi from the Likud; someone who may have been able to put a more moderate face on a right-wing government the world is just going to love to hate.
Political considerations made that impossible. So instead, Hotovely gets the nod, something that – at a time of tremendous diplomatic challenges – is not going to make Israel’s ability to maneuver on the international stage any easier.
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