Israel definitely needs some attitude in its Foreign Ministry, but it needs to be assertive, not belligerent. Lieberman characterizes the way a lot of Israelis feel about the rest of the world right now, but that’s not the job of the Foreign Minister – his job is to keep pushing the diplomatic way and the interests of Israel’s international relations. He did exactly the opposite.
He steered the country on a path of isolationism at the same time he and his colleagues were trying to fight being, well, isolated. Without focusing too much on that contradiction, he became a liability in foreign relations – many countries preferred to meet with Ehud Barak even anticipating the same sort of policy disagreements they would have had with Lieberman. What does that signify? Is Barak a better personality or is he much more diplomatic?
Either way, Lieberman became Foreign Minister because it seemed to be the safest place to put him – no one would want him being an aggressive Defense Minister and for damn well sure he would have done even more harm if he had been in charge of the Interior Ministry and pushing an anti-Arab agenda.
The next Foreign Minister will have a tough job, but it’s not all that different than the one that Lieberman had that he didn’t do. He oversaw a deterioration in qualitative relations with Europe and wasted valuable time opposing symbolic moves by the Palestinians at the UN. In that time, he could have played ball with Europe and the Palestinians, he could have let the symbolic moves go through by saying to our European connections, “We don’t have a problem with this, just as long as we get some stuff in return.” Nothing. Zip. Nada.
He refused to read the writing on the wall or turn pressing situations into opportunities. Even Germany, which tries to vote in Israel’s favor even when Berlin fundamentally disagrees with Jerusalem’s policy choices, is starting to distance itself from that policy because Bibi and Avigdor have not given even minor things to Angela Merkel in return for her very extensive diplomatic support.
But not just the Germans – will the next government break the window that the Czechs have opened for us? Will we start torpedoing our relationship with Prague? How strong are our ties with Eastern Europe that Lieberman has been so proud to brag about? Will they last through the next string of diplomatic flare ups?
It’s one thing to point out that Lieberman isn’t pragmatic. It’s also true that he doesn’t work hard to expand Israel’s diplomatic presence abroad and for damn sure didn’t do anything to push Israel’s vital core interest of having Jerusalem – even at the least the Western half – recognized as indisputably and irrevocably Israeli. Good riddance, Mr. Lieberman. May The State of Israel actually have a competent Foreign Minister come January 2013
(To see who I think will end up getting that job, click here. I’ll post something in the near future about it.)