Dozens of Israeli ambassadors were brought to Jerusalem this week from around the world to learn from the minister in charge about forgotten chapters in Israel's foreign policy. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman insists on bringing back the Israel of the bad old days of "the whole world is against us" and "there's no one to talk to." The foreign minister, the man responsible for promoting Israel's standing in the international community as a peace-loving country, presented a shamefully bullying approach. Lieberman has already become unwelcome in key countries in the Middle East and Europe. He has turned his chair into a jester's throne, the chair once occupied by people like Moshe Sharett, Golda Meir, Abba Eban, Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir.
While the president and defense minister are working to rehabilitate strategic relations with Turkey, the foreign minister arrogantly closes the window that this important Muslim country has opened to Syria. On the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to Cairo to try to unfreeze the talks with the Palestinians, Lieberman called the Palestinian Authority "a bunch of terrorists." Arab countries, who have been proposing since 2002 a normalization of relations with Israel, err in having fantasies, the foreign minister says. A few days after the Palestinian president declared publicly that a peace agreement based on the 1967 lines would end demands on Israel, the foreign minister "reached the conclusion" that even returning to the Green Line would not lead to the end of the conflict.
Using blunt language, Lieberman made clear to the ministry staff that his worldview is the one that represents Israel. The next day, Netanyahu told them that conditions were ripe for a renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians. This is not a question of differing nuances; the conflicting messages show an Israel given over to the hands of a bizarre government that is deceiving its citizens as well as its neighbors and friends around the world.
Israel cannot allow itself to have an extreme and irresponsible politician like Lieberman as its showcase to the world. Lieberman's appointment as foreign minister is turning out to be one of Netanyahu's most serious mistakes in putting together his cabinet. If the prime minister really wants to move a peace initiative ahead and win the trust of the international community, he must correct this mistake and release Lieberman from his post.
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