We are inundated with critical reports of the strident statements made by
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He is, reportedly, damaging the country’s
international image. Obviously, political correctness is not one of his main
concerns. It has to be acknowledged, however, that Lieberman’s
not-very-diplomatic style, while uncomfortable, also involves more than a little
To a certain extent, Lieberman is playing domestic
politics, trying to position himself as leader of the Right. Issues he has
raised, such as the loyalty oath, the conversion bill and the attack on human
rights NGOs, indeed smack of populism and are simplistic remedies to complex
problems. And his bluntness has repeatedly forced Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, an eloquent representative of the Jewish state, to issue
clarifications to distance himself from the enfant terrible of Israeli politics.
Netanyahu prefers the image of a statesman and a responsible
Yet Lieberman is often telling the naked truth. Let’s
consider his “provocative” and “irresponsible” statements about the Palestinians
and the Turks.
The chances for reaching a comprehensive agreement in the
near future with the Palestinians, within 12 or 36 months, are indeed nil, as
Lieberman has pointed out. The Palestinian Authority is not willing to make any
concessions on Jerusalem or on refugees. It rejects recognition of Israel as a
Lieberman is correct also in pointing out that the PA lacks
the legitimacy needed to close a deal with Israel. PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s
corrupt regime relies on Israeli bayonets to defend it from Hamas. This is what
Lieberman has said, and he is correct.
Moreover, his reflects the sober
assessment of a large majority of Israelis. Even swaths of the Left agree that
there is no Palestinian partner for a full peace. So why is it so terrible to
tell the truth? SIMILARLY, LIEBERMAN’S evaluation of the behavior of the current
government in Turkey is right on the mark. Turkey under Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan has not missed an opportunity to pick a fight with Israel over
the past two years, so there is nothing Jerusalem can do but wait for better
times. Erdogan-led Turkey is not interested in good relations, primarily because
under his helm it is distancing itself from the West and displaying a greater
Anti-Semitic sentiments also fuel the
Israelis agree with Lieberman’s refusal to be a “punching bag
for Turkey,” as explained in his recent op-ed in this paper.
makes no sense to apologize and pay compensation to those who were sent by the
IHH, an organization with proven terror links, to help Hamas-ruled
Actually, Lieberman’s assertion that it is Turkey which owes Israel
an apology seems the more logical. This probably makes sense to most Israelis,
who witnessed the brutal treatment of the naval commandos on the Turkish ship at
the hands of “peace activists.”
So why is it so terrible to tell the
truth? Similarly, Lieberman’s promotion of a loyalty oath is in sync with
majority opinion. Israeli Arab leaders have become increasingly vocal in their
support for Palestinian irredentism – and Jews want to see them checked. Most
Israelis also instinctively feel that the haredicontrolled Chief Rabbinate is
much too narrow and unwelcoming in its approach to Russian- Israelis who want to
Another bingo for Lieberman.
His attack on some left-wing
NGOs being fifth columns is also striking a responsive chord among many Israelis
that are fed up with Israel’s use of force being portrayed systematically as
violating human rights. After all, the IDF is making consistently great efforts
to behave admirably moral.
THE TRUTH is often unpleasant.
result, the seemingly noble and relentless search for an unavailable peace
formula is preferred by many to acceptance of the bad news that there is no way
to end the conflict any time soon. Incredibly generous concessions by Ehud Barak
and Ehud Olmert did not bring about peace because of the Palestinians’
Nevertheless, entrenched formulas are difficult to
The inertia of the “peace process” and the time, energy and
money already invested are not conducive to taking a fresh look at a 17-year
failure to bridge the differences.
Similarly, the realization that clever
formulas can’t fix relations with a Turkey that has chosen to side with radical
Islam goes against the popular but unfounded optimism. The possibility that
ignoring reality is more dangerous than pursuing unrealistic policies does not
Lieberman is also not off the mark in pointing out that
the flow of foreign money to local NGOs is a serious issue that needs to be
squarely dealt with.
This is necessary particularly because some of these
NGOs are blatantly biased with a clear Israel-demonization agenda hidden behind
a human rights discourse.
This government understands the depressing
reality, though a cool assessment will probably dictate going along with
falsehoods to please the world.
After all, daring to tell the truth might
push Israel into even greater isolation. Lying is what the world expects of
Jerusalem, and in the short run probably best serves its interests. In the
longer run, however, it may prove extremely costly.
Lieberman is having
none of this. He is enjoying the role of the boy who exposed the sham behind the
emperor’s new clothes. But in contrast to the naïve boy in that wellknown fable,
Lieberman is a shrewd politician. The emphasis on naked truth suits his search
for votes. After all, truth has a certain appeal among voters.
Israel’s dilemma. Who represents the wiser diplomatic course: Netanyahu or
Lieberman? The writer is is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan
University and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.