Friday, October 27, 2006

Ascendancy of Avigdor Lieberman Is Not an Israeli Internal Affair


By Nicola Nasser
(Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories)

"The absence of a proportionate Palestinian reaction to the ascendancy of Israel’s far right leader, Avigdor Lieberman, into the mainstream strategic decision-making in Tel Aviv has indicated of how dangerously the inter-Palestinian divide is overshadowing the Israeli threats and encouraged the visiting European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, to legitimize with a public meeting the only man who could abort not only the mission of his visit but all prospects of regional peace.

According to Israeli media on the eve and in the wake of the ominous deal, that has yet to be endorsed by the Knesset, Israeli politicians and commentators described Lieberman as a “strategic threat,” “the most dangerous politician in our political history,” “the most unrestrained and irresponsible man around,” a hawk, a hardliner, Israel's far right leader, extreme and ultra right-winger, a “fascist” and a leader of a “fascist party,” a “detestable racist,” “unguided missile” and a “loose cannon,” etc.

Hebrew University political science professor Zeev Sternhell, said Lieberman may be “the most dangerous politician in our political history” because of his “cocktail of nationalism, authoritarianism and dictatorial mentality” and because, unlike previous extreme-right figures he was not “marginalized.” Professor Sternhell added: “I cannot forget that Mussolini came to power with only 30 members of parliament.”

In 2004 he published his book “My Truth,” a call to draw Israel's borders to exclude Arab citizens and include illegal Israeli colonial settlements Israel built on occupied Palestinian West Bank territory; he himself lives with his family in the colony of Nokdim. Earlier he spoke of “transfer” of Arab citizens, Gershom Gorenberg wrote in the Jewish daily Forward on October 20, 2006. “The problem with the Arabs inside Israel must come before the Palestinian problem,” he said.

When he served as minister of transport in a previous government, Lieberman called for all Palestinian prisoners, now more than ten thousand, held by the Israeli occupation authorities to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide the buses, Ha'aretz reported on July 11, 2002.

However, instead of mobilizing its media and diplomatic corps to alert the world on the looming threat, the PLO kept absorbed by the internal divide and obsessed with plans on how to bring the elected Hamas to accept the U.S.-adopted Israeli dictates or squeeze it out of power, except for a rare statement that offhandedly shrugged Lieberman’s ascendancy as an Israeli “internal affair”!

“At the end of the day, what we hoped for is to have a partner in Israel who is willing to revive a meaningful peace process that will end this miserable situation between our two peoples,” said Saeb Erekat, who heads the PLO’s negotiations department, whose mission has been confined recently to educating Hamas and the Palestinian people on how to better understand the “realpolitics” of the US and EU-backed Israeli dictates.

Lieberman’s ascendancy could in no way be dealt with by whoever Palestinian is in the driving seat neither as an internal Israeli affair nor as a threat that could be frivolously shrugged off with levity; this would take irresponsibility too far to be justified, regardless of whatever pretexts might be cited.

This lenient PLO reaction would only weaken its already fragile internal status and encourage Israelis to deal with the matter similarly; if the Palestinians don’t care why should Israelis and if the PLO doesn’t set on the alarm why should the world care too! May be the PLO should be reminded of Israel’s reaction to the electoral victory of Austria's far right leader Jörg Haider in 1999 to entice it into action?

Lieberman’s inclusion into Israel’s mainstream decision-making is -- by premeditation or by coincidence -- pre-empting Palestinian, regional and international efforts to capitalize on the indecisive Lebanon war to either revive the old peace process or to initiate a new one, or in the best of optimistic scenarios to initiate a fundamental change in the regional peace-making from conflict management to conflict resolution.

Solana did meet Lieberman without at least balancing his move with a similar encounter with Hamas, thus legitimizing him and empowering his agenda with an EU engagement and bolstering his credentials with EU prestige. Solana also bypassed the democratically elected representative government of the Palestinian people. In both cases he was indirectly encouraged by PLO’s leniency vis-à-vis Lieberman and militancy vis-à-vis Hamas."

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