Lieberman may have trashed Annapolis, but the road map he accepts brings him to a two-state solution.
By HERB KEINON
Those who thought that the Foreign Ministry would soften up its new tenant, or make him more diplomatic, were in for a huge disappointment Wednesday when Avigdor Lieberman gave the world its first taste of what they are in for.
And what they are in for is a foreign minister who utterly rejects the polices of the previous government, and believes that the concessions of the last 15 years have neither led the country closer to peace nor improved its position in the world, and that completely new thinking is necessary. And they are also in for someone who says bluntly - even undiplomatically - what he thinks.
Catching the Foreign Ministry employees completely by surprise, since most were expecting a ceremony featuring the usual banal niceties, Lieberman turned his changing of the guard ceremony into a forum where he simply reversed Israeli diplomatic policy over the last two years and announced the abandonment of the Annapolis process.
Granted, the Annapolis process was going nowhere, and even US President Barack Obama had pretty much given up talking about it. Yet the "in your face" way he went about it was vintage Lieberman, essentially telling outgoing foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who was sitting on the stage watching him, that the policies she had championed for the past two years were useless and going out the window.
But there was something else very much evident at the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, and that was a return to the pre-disengagement polices of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
What did Lieberman essentially say? He said disengagement was a failure, as was Annapolis, as were all the generous concessions former prime minister Ehud Olmert said he offered the Palestinians over the past two years. Lieberman said none of that moved peace any closer, but rather pushed it all farther away.
But he did pledge allegiance to the road map, saying that this is a document that is binding on the government. And what is the official name of the road map? Interestingly enough, it is called "A Performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Lieberman may have trashed Annapolis, but by saying that the road map obligated him, he was at the same time accepting a two-state solution, because that is where the road map leads.
But, again sounding like Sharon, Lieberman said that the road map must be adhered to by the letter, and it must be implemented phase after phase. What this means is that negotiations for a final agreement are to take place at the end of the road map, not at the beginning: not before terrorism is eradicated, not before Palestinian institutions are created, not before the Palestinians show real security capabilities.
Lieberman, in a move that does not seem to have been coordinated with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, ditched the diplomatic framework of the past two years in favor of one adopted by Sharon in 2003.
No surprise, really, considering the identity of two of his key diplomatic advisors: Danny Ayalon, who was Sharon's trusted ambassador to the US, and Dov Weisglass, Sharon's closest diplomatic adviser.
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