The growing social-economic protest is, as could be expected, giving rise to efforts to divert resources from the issues of the day to a different set of priorities. The prime minister and the finance minister were quick to grab hold of the crisis in the money market following the downgrading of America's credit rating. The foreign minister harnessed for his needs the political crisis expected to occur in the wake of a United Nations decision to recognize a Palestinian state. Lieberman announced a few days ago that the Palestinian Authority "is getting ready for bloodshed on a scale we haven't yet seen" for the day after the UN vote. And so, a few weeks after he threatened to nullify the Oslo Accords, the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu has called on the government to break off all ties with the PA.
Public statements by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, headed by its president, Mahmoud Abbas, completely contradict Lieberman's forecast. Reliable sources point to a noticeable effort by the leadership in the West Bank to focus next month's expected protests on popular rallies and non-violent demonstrations. Yesterday chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat wondered, quite justifiably, just how a legitimate diplomatic initiative, intended to win international recognition of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, could be construed as an invitation to a bloodbath.
Moreover, Erekat was an active partner in President Shimon Peres' attempt to renew negotiations for a final agreement, in a last minute effort to prevent a crisis in September. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to explicitly name the '67 borders as the basis for negotiations and his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people are what sabotaged the process.
It stands to reason that Lieberman's transparent attempt to sow fear among the public will not distract the prime minister from the struggle to change social and economic priorities. It seems that even Netanyahu is not inclined to listen to the foreign minister's bizarre suggestion to abandon the West Bank to anarchy, a step that would force Israel itself to bear responsibility for the welfare and fate of all the citizens in the area. But if Netanyahu does not distance himself from the attempt of one the most senior ministers in his government to spread belligerence, he will not be able to fulfill his obligation to ensure peace and security.
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