Avigdor Liberman waits for the arrival of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to their meeting in Jerusalem, Aug. 29, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman will land in Washington for the yearly Saban Center Forum Dec. 6 — an event that has been inscribed in Liberman’s calendar for months, but with his recent acquittalwill become a kind of victory tour in the American capital.
Coordination feelers have already been sent out to set up meetings between him and key officials.
Requests for meetings with him are accumulating at a dizzying pace from all over the world — from foreign ministries to heads of states. Everywhere, it is understood that even if they don’t like the man, he is here to stay.
In Liberman’s first tenure as foreign minister, his relationship with then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was impossible from the get-go, full of scorn and aversion on her part and estrangement on his. In contrast, current Secretary of State John Kerry views Liberman as a key manin negotiations with the Palestinians, and intends to invest energy into developing a relationship with him.
On Tuesday night, Nov. 12, several hours after Liberman’s festive entrée into the foreign minister’s cabinet, his people refused to verify rumors according to which Liberman and Kerry had already talked over the phone. What was publicized was that Liberman’s first work meeting was held with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. The two have a good relationship that was maintained even during Liberman’s period of exile to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Shapiro almost certainly reported to President Barack Obama and Kerry’s respective offices about the positive atmosphere and the new tone he heard from Liberman behind the closed doors. All this can be summarized by saying that yes, there is now someone to talk to.
On the evening of Nov. 13, it was already reported that the much awaited phone call had indeed taken place. Kerry called the old-new minister to congratulate him on assuming office and wished him luck. It seems that the Kerry-Liberman duo has numerous meetings, dialogues and joint moves in its future.
On his first day as foreign minister, Liberman truly shined. He did not try to hide his emotions while receiving a familial, loving reception from the employees of his ministry.
On the practical level, Liberman transmitted a number of messages regarding the way he views his role and, at least on one level, it seems that his second term will be entirely different from his first. Liberman returns to his post more experienced and mature, someone who is thoroughly familiar with his ministry.
But the lion’s share of attention was rightly directed to Liberman’s pacifying statements regarding Israeli-US relations. Liberman went to great lengths to emphasize the importance of this alliance, and attempted to douse the flames in the dialogue conducted recently between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kerry regarding the emerging agreement between the superpowers and Iran.
Was this an attempt by Liberman to sting Netanyahu? It can’t be ruled out. But that was not his main goal; instead, Liberman wanted to restart his relations with the United States. Although in the past, people used to say that he ignited fires in the Middle East, this time he chose to open his first speech as foreign minister with utterances such as, “Relations with the United States are the cornerstone; without this, it is impossible to maneuver in the contemporary world.” This goes beyond a mere declaration of intent.
In his first term of office, Liberman often spoke about the importance of a relationship with Russia as a leading power. He met with President Vladimir Putin and often flattered him. But this time, Liberman did not even mention him, even though today’s Putin is much more influential and involved in Middle East affairs than it was four years ago.
Of course, this is no coincidence. Liberman returned to the Foreign Ministry with a clear program. He intends to transform himself into a key player in Israeli-US relations. From now on, every visit of Kerry to the region will include meetings with Liberman, and it will not come as a surprise if, during Liberman’s next visit to Washington for the Saban Forum, even Obama will set aside some time for him. The American decision to embrace Liberman may be worthwhile and productive toward promoting the diplomatic process. Eventually, people may even look back at the acquittal of the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman as an important landmark in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Anyone this time around who expected to hear Liberman’s regular attacks, even putdowns, against Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was in for a letdown. Liberman did not utter a word about Abbas being “irrelevant” or “illegitimate,” or that he should quit his post.
It’s not that Liberman changed his mind about Abbas; he just realizes that such talk is simply not appropriate for a foreign minister attempting to reinvent himself as a responsible adult in the government and in Israel’s foreign relations.
In Liberman’s former term of office as foreign minister, former Defense Minister Ehud Barak was the one empowered to act as foreign minister vis-à-vis the United States. Barak used to fly to Washington once every few weeks to conduct a dialogue for halting Iranian nuclearization. Since Israel’s new government was elected in January, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni filled this slot and was placed in charge of the negotiations with the Palestinians. But now, the new Liberman has no intention of relinquishing the US arena to others.
On Tuesday, Liberman already demanded the powers taken from him when he was forced to leave the Foreign Ministry: responsibility for conducting a strategic dialogue, which is now in the hands of Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz; responsibility for conducting an international struggle against Iranian nuclearization, also entrusted to Steinitz; and responsibility for managing economic relations with the Palestinians, which is in the hands of Steinitz and Ministers Yair Lapid and Silvan Shalom. But the best part is that Liberman demands involvement in negotiations with the Palestinians as a member of the restricted steering committee.
This is not good news for Livni, who has been a key player in the diplomatic arena over the past months. In effect, Liberman is sending signals that he has no intention of wasting time. He no longer lives under a legal cloud. He’s a free man and happy to transform the Foreign Ministry into an important and influential ministry in the diplomatic realm, and into a political platform which should serve his campaign for the premiership.
While Liberman constructs for himself the image of the responsible adult, he has his eye on the political center. Without the center, he cannot break through the glass ceiling under which he is viewed as an inflammatory foreign minister, who in his previous term often embarrassed Netanyahu vis-à-vis the United States.
If Netanyahu did not understand this before Tuesday, now the penny has dropped. While until now, there had been no alternative to Netanyahu, now a candidate is emerging in front of his very eyes
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.