Dear Foreign Minister, We Are Not A Banana Republic!
Enough is enough! We are not a banana republic. Our Foreign Minister is undermining the credibility of this government and by continuously behaving like a bull in a china shop, transforming us into the laughing stock of the world.
The time has come for him to decide whether he wishes to behave and abide by the responsibilities of a Minister or resign.
It is absolutely intolerable for our Foreign Minister to promote himself as though he alone is going to determine the policies of the government and continue contradicting and humiliating his Prime Minister.
Avigdor Lieberman is no fool. Whether one agrees with him or not there is little question that he represents one of the more intelligent and creative thinkers in the government. Indeed, I find myself frequently endorsing the content of some of his foreign policy statements, which are frequently more related to reality than the diplomatic doubletalk Prime Minister Netanyahu is obliged to articulate.
But Lieberman acts as though he is a law unto himself and even seems to relish contradicting and rubbing his Prime Minister’s face in the mud. One suspects that this is not a manifestation of egomania, but rather a shrewd and calculated attempt to obtain votes by presenting himself as a down to earth Israeli leader who says it as it is.
Not surprisingly, many Israelis are attracted, even intoxicated by his demagogic outbursts when he dismisses diplomatic niceties and confronts adversaries in a tough and aggressive manner. In the process, he is probably succeeding in attracting the traditionally more hawkish supporters of Likud, not enamored with the centrist and frequently unappealing diplomatic approaches Prime Minister Netanyahu frequently feels obligated to promote. Yet, needless to say, like any Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu would oblige Israel to face unpleasant international repercussions were he to publicly give vent to his thoughts or be motivated to make statements which were primarily crafted to satisfy his domestic constituency.
Lieberman’s behavior is now getting completely out of hand. His outburst at the UN directly contradicting statements made only a few days earlier by his Prime Minister and now his deplorable public skirmishes concerning the highly overdue appointment of the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and a new envoy to the Court of St. James, inflict untold damage to our standing.
It is the Foreign Minister whose principal role is to present the policies of his government to the world in the most positive manner. Lieberman is doing the very opposite. If he has a dispute with his Prime Minister, it should surely be resolved behind closed doors at a cabinet level rather than being publicly ventilated in the global media.
It may well be that Lieberman is deliberately behaving in this manner in preparation for elections. But the damage he is inflicting on the reputation of the state is unforgiveable. Netanyahu should therefore consider bringing an end to a government in which the Foreign Minister, who should be promoting him and the policies of his government, repeatedly acts like a maverick and humiliates him.
We are currently confronting unprecedented global efforts to demonize and delegitimize us. The instability and upheavals now taking place amongst our neighbors makes this a time of great peril. If ever there was a need for unity it is now.
If Avigdor Lieberman continues displaying contempt for his own government, Netanyahu will be obliged to reconsider his aversion to linking up with Kadima and forming a broadly based centrist government. The Prime Minister should ascertain whether despite the volatile and frequently irresponsible attacks leveled against him by the opposition and in particular by its leader Tzipi Livni, Kadima would be willing to work together as a real government.
There are no genuine ideological barriers barring co-operation between these parties. The majority is pragmatic and if they would set aside their personal agendas, they could collectively create a sense of unity that this nation under siege now desperately yearns.
They would also be able to introduce the urgently needed domestic reforms that have been delayed because of the undue leverage of selfish one-dimensional parties solely promoting the interests of their constituents. By demonstrating primary commitment to the national interest, such a government could even rekindle amongst Israelis some faith in the battered political process.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post