Lieberman to be Foreign Minister

by Brien Jackson

The big news of the day on the foreign policy front is that Benjamin Netanyahu has officially designated Avigdor Lieberman as the Israeli Foreign Minister in his attempt to build a governing coalition. There’s a couple of ways to look at this. On the one hand, Bibi is arguably going for the most offensive designation possible in an attempt to leverage Kadima. Tzipi Livni’s party is certainly not in unanimous agreement with her declaration that Kadima will head to the opposition before taking a junior position to Likud, in no small part because many feel that Kadima will be unable to survive such a stint. Less cynically, there are many who feel that a unity government between Kadima and Likud that could keep Lieberman and the rest of the extreme right marginalized is vital for the health of Israel. So I do think it’s possible, maybe even likely, that Netanyahu is mostly hoping to stoke further dissention within the Kadima ranks by showing that he is willing to consolidate the majority of mandates on the far right if Kadima insists on opposition.

That said, it’s important to remember that Bibi can do that, if it is his intention, because the right-wing parties won a majority of mandates in the recent elections. That is to say, that the Israeli people have moved far to the right on the Palestinian (and Iranian) issue, while the rest of the world, including the United States, is increasingly moving to the left. And that’s in no small part a reaction to the recent round of fighting in Gaza, an action that was launched by a Kadima led government and administered, primarily, by the Labor controlled Ministry of Defense. In other words, Americans concerned with the rise of Lieberman and Bibi, and the Israeli situation in general, should remember that the other major parties in Israel are only marginally better than Likud, at least in regards to the peace process.