Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has it out for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and in a big way. Remarks earlier this week about how Abbas is the “obstacle” to the peace process and had to be “removed” were seen as so inflammatory that Palestinian Authority officials accused Lieberman of threatening Abbas’ life. Just this morning, prompted by not very much, Lieberman’s office issued a statement-slash-press release to Israel’s foreign missions continuing the barrage: “Chairman Abbas’”—the more respectful term is “President Abbas”—“prolonged eschewal of dialogue and preference for unilateralism, underscored by his recent bid for independence through the U.N., coupled with his unabashed drive for unity with Hamas, are inimical to Palestinian interests,” the statement accuses. “Realistic appraisal of the situation indicates that attempts to proceed further at this time, towards political understandings, will surely end in failure.”
It concludes, “These antagonistic Palestinian policies cannot reasonably be understood apart from the personal conduct and goals of Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas.”
Yet sharp Israeli journalist Amir Mizroch argues that the person with whom Lieberman is really picking a fight is not Abbas but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Noting that Netanyahu’s stated policy is to continue to push for direct talks with a P.A. run by Abbas, Mizroch notes,
Lieberman is saying these nasty things about Abbas because he knows Bibi won’t fire him or call him to order. Bibi can’t fire Lieberman, unless he’s willing to jettison Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party and bring Kadima into the coalition, which he doesn’t want to do ([Kadima leader Tzipi]Livni won’t do it either unless Bibi agrees to resume substantive peace talks). If and when Netanyahu does decide to fire his wayward foreign minister, Lieberman can make a play for the more right-wing elements of the Likud, the National Religious Party, as well as others, and head into the next elections as the official representative of the Right. Bibi fears this more than anything else, and is loathe to see Lieberman, his one-time employee, as the champion of the Right, heading into elections.