lieberman - Emil Salman - December 14 2010
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Photo by Emil Salman
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When Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announces that "he is no longer willing to tolerate the lies" that their prime minister is spreading against his country, the Turks had better prepare the shelters.

The last time that our settler said he was unwilling to tolerate any more, the neighbors' children barely survived. In his foreign policy Lieberman is implementing the philosophy of "an eye for an eye" that he brought with him from his service as a bouncer in bars, where he began he career as a thug.

Nine years ago the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court approved a plea bargain with Lieberman in a case in which he was accused of violent behavior and causing injury to children aged 14 and 15 who had hit his son. He was fined NIS 7,500, paid NIS 10,000 compensation to the children, and promised to refrain from violent offenses for two years.

In their ruling the judges suggested to the accused that he study the words of Ecclesiastes: "Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools." The horror show that Lieberman presented two days ago before the dozens of embarrassed Israeli diplomats and the television cameras proves that he did not heed the judges' advice.

There are some who attribute Lieberman's behavior to his anger at the prime minister. Others assume that he is setting his sights on right-wing voters. But there is another possibility: The uproars were designed to divert public discussion from Lieberman's pathetic functioning in his area of responsibility: Israel's foreign relations. The foreign minister has removed himself from relations with the Palestinians - the main sphere that has been preoccupying Israeli diplomacy for the past 25 years. Maintaining the weakening ties between Jerusalem and Washington has been left in the hands of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor. Since the time when Lieberman attacked the foreign ministers of France and Spain and ran to tell the guys in the media, most European foreign ministers are careful to keep their distance from his big mouth.

All that was left for Lieberman to do was to go all the way to South America to look for friends. In July he visited Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Colombia. At the time the Foreign Ministry declared that the visit of Foreign Minister Lieberman took place after a long period when there was no official visit of an Israeli foreign minister to Latin America, and that it was designed "to emphasize the great importance that the foreign minister attributes to the region." The visit was described as "part of the viewpoint bequeathed by Lieberman with his entry into the ministry, to the effect that Israel must develop new directions in its international policy in order to expand its influence and strengthen the advancement of Israeli interests by building broad international coalitions."

Tightening relations with South America was described as a strategic move by Yisrael Beiteinu. The announcement reported that in the context of that policy, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch had visited Panama and Costa Rica, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon had dropped in on a conference of the Organization of American States in Honduras, and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau went to Paraguay.

In a meeting described as "secret" with several senior members of his ministry in a Jerusalem hotel, Lieberman instructed them to act to strengthen Israel's diplomatic and economic ties with the group of countries that are considered rising powers in the world. He placed Brazil at the top of the list, and even ordered the opening of a new consulate in Sao Paulo.

This past February, Ynet reported that in private talks Lieberman had credited the rejection of the Goldstone Report in the United Nations General Assembly to his activity in South America, Africa and countries that he said Israel had neglected before his arrival at the Foreign Ministry.

Brazil and Argentina were the first countries to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, followed by Bolivia and Ecuador. And the list is lengthening almost daily. There they aren't buying the diagnosis that the foreign minister bequeathed to his officials yesterday, to the effect that "even if we offer the Palestinians Tel Aviv and a withdrawal to the 1947 borders, they'll find a reason not to sign a peace treaty." Lieberman will have to go all the way to Fiji in order to find a single UN member that will treat his "interim agreement plan" seriously.

Apropos our situation in the UN and the functioning of the foreign minister: Since the summer Lieberman has not been able to reach an agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the appointment of an ambassador to the UN, and sent a temporary ambassador who is far from qualified for the job to this important institution.

Barkat's brilliant idea

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who made his fortune in a computer software startup, is demonstrating creativity in political programs as well. Two days ago he stopped the evacuation and sealing of Beit Yonatan in East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood, with the claim that he had closed an exchange deal with the Ateret Cohanim association, which claims ownership of the seven-story building.

Under the deal, the settlers living in Beit Yonatan will remain in place and in exchange the association will delay the implementation of an order to evacuate a Palestinian family leaving in an adjacent building, which served as a synagogue before 1948.

What is the connection between an evacuation order given in the wake of a civil dispute and an order based on the Planning and Construction Law, which was ratified in three judicial decisions, against a building constructed without a permit? What is the connection between an elected official and the enforcement of a judicial order handed down two and a half years ago?

The attorney general recently ordered Barkat and the police to put an end to the contempt of the law. He probably is familiar with Article 244 of the Penal Code, which imposes up to three years' imprisonment on anyone who does something with the intention of preventing or causing the failure of a judicial process. Yehuda Weinstein would do well to find out what the Prosecutor's Office did with the complaint of Jerusalem city councilman Meir Turgeman against Barkat in the Beit Yonatan affair, which the police handed over to him long before the prosecutors strike.