Friday 3 January 2014

Lieberman - An Unexpected Peace Maker?

1. Netanyahu's rhetorical battle against Iran ended in a pyrrhic victory. Its long term consequences will be harmful to Israel. The hostility in the streets of Europe and the resentment of the economic interests of the West in the resumption of relations with Iran will cast a shadow on Israel's diminishing popularity both in Europe and the USA. The idea that we were fighting a proxy war for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf will not wash amongst  the Sunni Arab world as long as the Palestinian problem is not resolved. But its impact on our relations with the Americans will be felt. Netanyahu's misconceived tactics have misfired and succeeded paradoxically only to project Iran as the top regional power leaving Turkey and Israel behind.

2. And what about the other bone of contention between Netanyahu and Kerry? Kerry wants to concentrate on the West Bank. Netanyahu ask what about Gaza and Hamas. In this I believe Kerry is right. Once Abu Mazen is established as the President of the State of Palestine he will deal with Gaza and Hamas. And the quicker that happens the bigger chance Abu Mazen will have to assert his authority especially now that Egypt is weakening Hamas. It would be wise for Israel to leave that issue to the Palestinians themselves to solve their internal differences. For unless Abu Mazen is established soon as  the President of a viable Palestine on the West Bank the future leadership of the Palestinians will by default revert back to Hamas. We would then have resurrected them at a time when their popularity and influence are at an all time low. It will be us who will perpetuate the conflict with all the Palestinians and consequently with all the Arab world.

3.  Israel's other problem is internal. It is causing much harm to our democracy and politics. I refer to the way our three arms of the state are interacting. The Rule of the Law of the Knesset, the first arm of the State, the Sovereign, is now replaced by the Rule of the Law of the Supreme Court. Today it is the Judges of Jerusalem who  decide which law is good and binding and which is not thus legislating from the Bench. Contrary to the general perception in Israel this is not the case in the West certainly not in England. And for good measure the delays of investigations of the Police, the Prosecutor General and the overburdened Courts together are impacting indirectly on the  political arena where key players are removed for years awaiting trials and verdicts.  Justice today in Israel is Justice Denied because it is Justice Delayed. Examples of public figures shabbily treated  are too many to enumerate.

4. After some 15 years when his reputation was shredded Lieberman was acquitted. Can we hope that soon this will be followed by the final decision on Ehud Olmert?  Is there time left for him to join in leading us out of the morass that the settlers of the West Bank have plunged us into. Here we have the best Prime Minister neutralised, who could have taken part in the fateful decisions that have to be made now on the future existence of Israel.  And if he continues to be denied his central role will  Netanyahu instead wake up at last to catch the opportunity to do that himself?

5. Olmert in publicised  interviews in America and Israel explained frankly and openly the details of the peace plan  that he hammered out during his premiership with Abu Mazen. Olmert believes that it could have been implemented then, and can still be now, if only the counterpart leader in Israel has the courage to do that. Olmert has this courage but he is waiting on the sidelines for the conclusion of his trial. And we the people of Israel must look to the incumbent Premier Netanyahu to have that courage.

6. Would Netanyahu together with Tsipi Livni have the clout to catch this historic opportunity the way that Rabin-Peres did at Oslo?  I think that they might. As promised by Netanyahu that if a settlement is reached he will submit the plan to a Referendum. Will there be enough votes to succeed. I maintain yes - easily. With 20% Arabs in Israel who no doubt  will wholeheartedly and overwhelmingly vote for a settlement it will not be too difficult to recruit enough Jewish votes to bring the majority to 50% plus one with or without the support of the one million Israeli New Diaspora abroad.

7. But Netanyahu is leading a fractured coalition that lacks cohesion and resolve. He is hesitant and gets bouts of cold feet now and then which he treats with rhetoric. He understands the situation very well and knows ahead of public opinion that America with its prospect of self sufficiency in oil is not the same America that depended entirely on Saudi Arabians oil and therefore on us as the standby whipping boy. The Gulf States identification with the West today stems less from oil and more from their enormous financial interests. To them a pacified and contained Iran is better than Iran at loggerheads with the West. Most of them conveniently prefer Saudi Arabia to bear the brunt of the Shiaa/Sunna conflict. Saudia resents this new order but that should be no comfort to us

8, Here comes the long distance runner who takes the long view and plans his move long in advance: Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu is shrewd enough to see that he is snookered by long suffering Obama. By assigning the mediation to Kerry both Obama and Kerry are not going easily to give up the  prize of bringing the Israel/Palestinian negotiation to a successful conclusion. However unlike Netanyahu whose constituency is messianic and religious and his support tenuous, Lieberman's constituency is pragmatic and secular and his support is solid. He lives in the West Bank but is not dependant on its votes which he will always seek in Russian Natanya.

9. Therefore my belief is that having tried their utmost to negotiate the best deal via Tsipi Livni and directly with Kerry  Netanyahu backed by Lieberman will sign up with Abu Mazen, and that will be sooner than many expect. They both know that in the Knesset and in a referendum in the country their backing is assured.

Aharon Nathan, 3rd January 2014