Right for the Wrong Reasons


The foreign policy mantra of Israel’s radical, Moldovan-born foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, can be accurately summarized in just four words: always blame the victim.

He may be more vocal than most, but it is the paradigm by which all Israeli ministers operate: the victims, not the perpetrators, are responsible for their own suffering. Whether it was the July 2006 war on Lebanon or the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, the innocents killed effectively brought Israel’s wrath upon themselves.

The doctrine also applies to those accidently/deliberately killed (always a murky distinction) by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for standing up for Palestinian rights, such as when an armored bulldozer crushed American peace activist Rachel Corrie to death as she tried to prevent a home’s destruction; or when an IDF sniper shot British activist Thomas Hurndall in the head while he was rescuing  Palestinian children in the line of fire; or when American student Emily Henochowicz lost an eye after being shot in the face with tear gas grenade as she peacefully protested the Israeli raid on the Turkish flotilla.

So when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogen demanded a formal apology from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the May 31 commando raid on the MV Mavi Marmara (the Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s lead relief vessel aboard which nine Turkish aid workers were murdered) Lieberman replied that it was Ankara who owed Israel the apology for attempting to break the inhumane Gaza embargo.

“I think the matter of an apology borders on chutzpah or beyond. If anything, we are waiting for an apology from the Turkish government, and not the other way around.”

But in the midst of his speech to Israeli ambassadors, two rare statements of truth emerged from the mendacious Lieberman.

Mahmoud Abbas is an illegitimate president

“It is forbidden for us to reach a comprehensive deal today with the Palestinians. To put it clearly, you have to understand that their government is not legitimate ? It is a government that has postponed elections three times, that lost elections, that does not hold elections, does not plan to hold elections and there are no guarantees that next time they do hold elections, that Hamas won’t win again.”

Peace is certainly not dependent on an elected party or person to take effect. It remains true, however, that the four-year term of the Palestinian Authority’s ostensible leader, Mahmoud Abbas, expired on Jan. 9, 2009 (he unilaterally extended his term for an additional year thereafter). Abbas’ authority can thus legitimately be called into question.

Because he holds no love for Hamas?the landslide victor in the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections?Abbas has remained in the good graces of the United States and is regarded by Israel as a leader with whom they can do business.

Little headway has been made in Fatah?Hamas reconciliation ever since Fatah was ousted from Gaza in June 2007 when Abbas dissolved the unity government and declared he would rule by presidential decree. Indeed, his protestations of Israel’s brutal December 2008 attack on the tiny enclave were notably feeble, if not mute.

Lieberman is technically correct in his statement although it remains the hollowest of excuses, meant solely to avoid substantive negotiations with the Palestinians (and an ironic one, considering what Israel was able to accomplish under the docile Abbas).

Peace is impossible

“It’s not only that it is impossible [to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians], it is simply forbidden.”

Once again putting aside the ridiculous assertion that peace is “forbidden,” Lieberman is correct in contending that it is impossible at present.

Peace cannot occur when West Bank land is being expropriated by new and expanding settlements. Peace cannot occur when Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are evicted from their homes. Peace cannot occur when 1.5 million residents of Gaza are not free to obtain medical care, leave their open-air prison to visit relatives in the West Bank, or adequately rebuild their homes, hospitals and schools.

For once Avigdor Lieberman got it right ? for all the wrong reasons.

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent Middle East commentator.


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