Lieberman Nomination 'Risky and Cynical Gamble,' Writes New York Times

Newspaper says Netanyahu chose to shore up his coalition at the cost 'further straining relations with Washington.'

Avigdor Lieberman
Ilan Assayag

The New York Times has sharply criticized the nomination of Avigdor Lierberman as Israeli defense minister, writing in an editorial Tuesday's that his previous stints as foreign minister were "a disaster for Israeli-American relations."

The nomination, the paper wrote, "is a risky and cynical gamble" on the part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who "seems to think that bringing peace to his shaky coalition is more important than the risk of putting a rival in charge of Israel’s vaunted security forces and of further straining relations with Washington."

The New York Times described the timing of the nomination as "particularly sensitive," coming as it does with the two countries in the final stages of negotiations for a 10-year defense agreement that would establish new levels of American military aid for Israel.

"It’s hard to imagine peace talks moving rapidly forward in the immediate future, for a number of reasons," the paper wrote, but "it is entirely possible to imagine Israel’s relations in the region and beyond moving backward with a defense minister who has threatened, among other things, to conquer Gaza or bomb the Aswan Dam in the event of a war with Egypt."

The editorial speculates that Netanyahu may be betting that, with the two-state solution "effectively dead for now," Lieberman is capable of getting a better defense deal from the next president.

That is not going to happen, the New York Times says. "The next American president is not likely to abandon support for a two-state solution, and Israel’s position in Washington will not be strengthened by a defense minister at odds with the Israeli military establishment."