binyamin netanyahu 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s three-hour-long meeting with
reporters from the Hebrew press this week in Ramallah can be seen as an attempt
– quite possibly with heavy US encouragement – to reach out to the Israeli
public. There was nothing particularly new in what Abbas had to say. But the
general impression that the PA head will most likely have succeeded in conveying
to the Americans is that he is showing a readiness to push ahead with
negotiations on the final-status issues of security and borders, while Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has proffered nothing but a wall of silence. “We
have yet to receive a sign from Netanyahu on progress,” Abbas said.
PA president’s calculated outreach stands in sharp contrast to the Netanyahu
government’s foreign policy stance, which seems to be becoming increasingly
incoherent as time goes by.
Since the present government was created 15
months ago, a more than awkward reality has prevailed: The foreign
openly and honestly stated that he has no faith in the current
effort, while this very formulation has been formally adopted by
With Lieberman absenting himself from a process in which he
declaredly has no faith, it has been Defense Minister Ehud Barak who has
over much of the responsibility for peace negotiations, including via
relatively warm relations with members of the Obama administration.
Lieberman, met this week with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell.
Lieberman, will be meeting in the coming days with PA Prime Minister
NOW, AS Netanyahu prepares for his trip to Washington to meet
with President Barack Obama, Israel’s prime minister and foreign
minister are at
further odds – this time over how to deal with deteriorating diplomatic
relations with Turkey.
Knowing that Lieberman would never agree to a
conciliatory meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and
Davutoglu would also likely have rejected such a meeting, Netanyahu
behind Lieberman’s back and parceled out another of what should have
areas of responsibility. Netanyahu’s decision to send Industry, Trade
Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to meet with Davutoglu may or may not
destabilize the coalition – it definitely miffed Lieberman, who knew
the meeting in advance – but it is yet another indicator that Israeli
policy is dysfunctional.
Hitherto, the strange arrangement had proved
relatively manageable. Lieberman focused much of his energies on
with South America, Russia and the Baltic states, while leaving peace
negotiations to Barak and Netanyahu. One of Lieberman’s recent successes
Cyprus, which has warmed relations with Israel, though probably more out
enmity for Turkey than love for Israel. Relations have improved with
and Romania as well. And now Lieberman is courting Malta, one of the 27
Union members. Still, any such gains have been eclipsed by the ongoing
with Turkey and by international concern over the stagnation on the
There is no lack of ideas on how to move forward with the
Palestinians. Lieberman, for one, has a distinctive plan for a two-state
solution. Last week, the foreign minister publicized his ideas in an
The Jerusalem Post
, calling for
an exchange of populated territories and a
redrawing of the country’s borders so that many Israeli Arabs find
within the contours of a Palestinian state while Israel’s borders expand
include many Jews in settlements in the West Bank.
Barak has spoken
recently of the need for an “assertive diplomatic policy” – and
thinking of a variation of the Clinton parameters, which he accepted
served as prime minister in 2000 and which Yasser Arafat rejected. For
our new diplomatic gobetween Ben-Eliezer supports negotiating with
Fatah murderer Marwan Barghouti.
From the key Israeli leader, the prime
minister, however, there is silence. Critics from Left and Right assert
is more preoccupied with his own political survival than with
clear, coherent position that could both bring momentum to the
enable the international community to understand Israel’s needs.
the 10-month settlement building freeze slated to end in September, and
adroitly portraying himself as waiting for the prime minister, Netanyahu
going to have to make some tough decisions – and to alienate some of the
domestic and international players, with their conflicting agendas, whom
sought simultaneously to court until now.
In fact, decision time might
well come next week, when he sits down with Obama. For Israel’s sake, he
better go to the White House well prepared.