Quick recap of Israel’s insane coalition politics: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu want to pull the government to the right; opposition leader Tzipi Livni and her Kadima would maybe join the government on the condition of replacing Lieberman; Prime Minister Netanyahu needs Lieberman to shore up the right at home, but while Lieberman is Israel’s top diplomat in name, in practice the country’s chief representative to the outside world has been the far more venerable and moderate Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Bibi’s double books exploded this week with revelations of a secret meeting (for “secret,” read “behind Lieberman’s back”) between Turkey’s foreign minister and Israel’s industry minister in Zurich over the flotilla fallout. So the Turkish foreign minister met not with his Israeli counterpart, as diplomatic protocol would have it, but with Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer—a member of, yup, Barak’s Labor Party.
Lieberman was reportedly furious (from his perspective, he has every right to be); reportedly refused to take Netanyahu’s calls initially and plotted revenge; and eventually met with Netanyahu and got the prime minister to admit that the whole thing was a big mistake. Lieberman says he won’t leave the government over it. Phew?
The continuing problem is that it was not necessarily a mistake. Though a student of international relations, Lieberman has minimal diplomatic experience in absolute terms; compared to Barak, the former prime minister who has developed relationships with top officials all over the world (and nowhere more than in the United States), Lieberman may as well possess as much diplomatic experience as you or I. Additionally, Lieberman’s view of the world is a bit … cruder than Barak’s—or even the more right-wing Netanyahu’s. An Israel whose de facto top diplomat is Avigdor Lieberman is almost certainly a yet more isolated Israel.
And yet, and yet! Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reaction to the secret meeting? Unchanged demands: Until Israel apologizes, agrees to an international probe, lifts the Gaza blockade, and pays compensation, Turkey says, it will not appoint a new ambassador. Maybe Lieberman is onto something? But if he is the most sane one, we’re all in trouble.
Turkish and Israeli Officials Meet Secretly on Raid Crisis [NYT]
Lieberman Demands Netanyahu Backing in Face of Global Backlash [Haaretz]
FM To Take ‘Calculated’ Revenge on PM [JPost]
PM to FM: ‘It Was A Mistake’ [JPost]
Earlier: Israel’s Top Diplomat
Lieberman Nixes Palestinian State in ’12