You might want to head into this weekend hoping for peace in the Middle East. Not just peace in some not-too-distant future, but peace, like, this weekend. Possible enemy: Syria. The latest round of hostilities has been simmering for several days, but it was upped yesterday when Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced bellicosely, “I think that our message must be clear to [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad. In the next war, not only will you lose, you and your family will lose the regime. Neither you will remain in power, nor the Assad family.” While Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately moved in with an even-handed statement that sought to lower the heat, Syria’s counterpart responded to Lieberman in kind: “Israel should not test Syria’s determination,” the foreign minister said. “Israel knows that war will move to the Israeli cities.” Lefty correspondent Aluf Benn described the current state of things as a “crisis,” noting that Arab countries felt provoked in 1967 after the Israeli chief-of-staff (Yitzhak Rabin, as it happens) threatened Syria.
Today, Lieberman, cooled down, clarified his remarks in an effort to lower tensions before things get too out of hand.
Kidding! “My response, which I made in order to clarify that the situation [with Syria] is unbearable, was immediately met with a hysterical reaction in Israel of ‘how dare we anger the nobleman,’” he said. “I don’t work for the media or for public opinion.”
No, Minister Lieberman, but you do work for the Israeli people. Particularly at a time when both Israel’s newest enemy, Turkey, and its oldest friend, the United States, are seeking closer ties to Syria (America has proposed its first ambassador in five years), it is difficult to argue that the Israeli people are best served by needless provocations like these. Those who have illusions about Assad’s malevolence are certainly wrong, and should be persuaded otherwise. But even if doing so was Lieberman’s true intention, as he claims, it looks like that message got lost in the noise he made while doing it.