What Avigdor Lieberman learned from George Orwell
What exactly did Lieberman think he would achieve with this letter calling for elections to replace Abbas?
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman outdid himself in his latest venture. As reported in Haaretz today, he sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a letter. He suggested that they press for new elections in the Palestinian Authority and replace Mahmoud Abbas, whom he calls the major obstacle to peace negotiations.
The fascinating question for me is: what exactly did Lieberman think he would achieve with this letter? It didn't seem like he's been spending sleepless nights because the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians hasn't been moving forward. After all, in his speech at the UN in 2010, he said that peace with the Palestinians would take a few decades. So that it's hard to believe that he could no longer live without negotiations with the Palestinians.
Even assuming that Lieberman cannot sleep because he deeply craves an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it is very unlikely he believes that Abbas's replacement would be more conducive to peace with Israel. After all he should know that Abbas's political standing among Palestinians is weak precisely because he is seen as collaborating with Israel.
What, then, did Lieberman want to achieve with his letter? Let us look at the letter’s text. He first argues that Abbas is responsible for the lack of progress in the peace process. But then moves to a soaring climax, likely to become legendary in the annals of international relations and political philosophy:
“Facts and history, as opposed to the simplistic stereotypes and political bias, contradict the idea that somehow the settlement enterprise is the main obstacle to renewing the negotiations. This premise simply does not standup to the test of reality or the historic precedent of the peace accords between Israel and our neighbors. Both peace accords, with Egypt and Jordan, were signed when settlements existed; the claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace is unfounded.”
I have no doubt that after reading this paragraph Clinton, Ashton, Lavrov and Ban Ki-moon finally saw the light. This is an historical argument of such phenomenal strength that they must realize now that their views of the Israel-Palestine conflict so far were indeed based on “simplistic stereotypes and political bias” to quote Lieberman’s immortal words.
How could anybody ever have thought that Israeli settlements had anything whatsoever to do with the peace process? Why should it make a difference that the territory that Palestinians, quite mistakenly, thought to be theirs in a future final status agreement is being cut to pieces by a few settlers? Why do Palestinians make a fuss when tens of thousands of them cannot move freely because of a few hundred settlers in Hebron, to give just one example?
Quite obviously the time had come to wake up the world’s leading foreign policy luminaries and teach them a lesson of history! Lieberman gives a totally smashing argument: we made peace with Egypt and Jordan while there were settlements, so why not with the Palestinians?
On second thought, maybe Clinton, Ashton, Lavrov and Ban Ki-moon might think that the analogy is not quite perfect. They might point out that Egypt and Jordan received every square meter they had demanded and that the settlements were actually not on land they considered their own. They might point out to Mr. Lieberman that the U.S., the EU, Russia and the UN never accepted Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. They might therefore, just conceivably, think that the settlements are a tiny problem for people who, think that any future peace agreement must be based on the 1967 borders (like the Palestinians and an overwhelming majority of the international community).
But this would only show their lack of philosophical depth. Lieberman has obviously studied Orwell’s 1984 profoundly. He knows that any decently functioning country needs to be run by Big Brother with a ‘Ministry of Truth’ responsible for propaganda and the revision of history. And because Israel has so far failed to institute a Ministry of Truth, Lieberman, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to take upon himself the sacred duty redefining the truth.
He is trying to teach Clinton, Ashton, Lavrov and Ban Ki-moon how to revise their simplistic conceptions of truth and reality: as Orwell’s Ministry of Truth would say: “History and truth are simplistic stereotypes and political bias; simplistic stereotypes and political bias are history and truth.”
But, as Lieberman is finding out, not everybody sees his greatness as a political theorist and philosopher. Even Netanyahu, who is pretty good at bending the truth, has distanced himself from Lieberman’s letter, stating that it does not represent his own views or the views of his government. So far I haven’t seen a reaction from the letter’s recipients, but I am afraid that they too might be unable to see the depth of Lieberman’s point.
Lieberman may just have to wait until he is appointed Big Brother. He will then finally be able to orchestrate huge rallies in which all Israeli citizens will swear allegiance to his version of history and truth.