Reminder: Netanyahu is responsible for Lieberman

The fact that Lieberman is still the Foreign Minister shows Netanyahu puts own interests ahead of the country’s

The most urgent political demand in Israel is the removal of Avigdor Lieberman from his position as foreign minister. Not the most original insight, I know, but it has to be said again.

Two days ago, Lieberman leaked his new plan for retaliation against Turkey, which he claimed was the brainchild of senior Foreign Office officials. The plan included promoting information about the Armenian genocide, and military support of the PKK, a Kurdish militia which carried terror attacks against Turkish civilians (as well as military targets), and is considered a terror organization by the US and the European Union.

What can I say? Pure genius. The idea of fighting Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide is enough to make you vomit. I doubt there is any country in the world, Turkey aside, who did so much to deny it as Israel did. Israel’s Turkish interest led to 30 years of official denial. When former Education Minister Yossi Sarid dared to speak the verboten words, he was attacked by the security apparatus. When an Israeli Armenian was chosen to light one of the flares at the Independence Day ceremony, some 15 years back, she was under tremendous pressure not to mention the events early Hebrew journalist Itamar Ben Avi published, which Ambassador Morgenthau tried to prevent, which Franz Werfel immortalized and which gave Raphael Lemkin the concept of genocide. If to deny a holocaust is to be a partner in it, Israel is Turkey’s main accomplice.

The rapid change in Israel’s position is particularly repellent: Suddenly, it reverses course and adopts the historical truth – for its own purposes, of course, and after it made every effort to deny it and made the Jewish-American establishment do the same. One can imagine a new regime in Ankara, a more friendly one, may make Israel speedily change its position on the events of 1915-1916. George Bernard Shaw said all that needs to be said about such behavior; Israel is merely bargaining for a better price.

The suggestion that Israel supply the PKK with arms is too delusional to debate seriously. Just thinking of our agents getting caught red-handed delivering explosives meant to blow up Turks, a casus belli against a  NATO nation, is enough to make you shiver. What does it say about a country, whose foreign minister comes up with such suggestions? I guess we should consider ourselves lucky Lieberman didn’t publicly advocate bombing Ankara.

FO officials angrily denied (Hebrew) that they made such suggestions. According to them, and they seem far more believable than Lieberman, they suggested ways to put out the flames. Generally, I think that officials who attack their elected ministers ought to resign, but Lieberman managed to bring about an hitherto unimaginable position: Officials having to defend themselves from being libeled by their minister.

Lieberman, and this is not much of a secret, does not really act as a foreign minister. He skips important meetings – for instance, he wasn’t present in the urgent meeting called by Netanyahu after the Turks sent the Israeli ambassador home. And he spends much of his time in his homeland, Moldavia, or in Belarus. Well, if he misses home so much, shouldn’t he relieve himself of the burdensome offices he took upon himself?

The problem, however, is not Lieberman. Or, more precisely, not just Lieberman. The real problem is the prime minister, who does not rein him in. Netanyahu does not dare to treat Lieberman as he treats his Likud rival Silvan Shalom, who may have been a caricature of a foreign minister, but, although he was certainly useless, caused little if any damage. The reason is, of course, is Shalom can’t bring Netanyahu’s government down, while Lieberman can. The best Netanyahu can do is say he does not support Lieberman’s policy. Which is to say, Netanyahu is selling Israel’s long-term interests for his personal survival in power. The responsibility for Lieberman’s behavior lies with the man who appointed him and who can fire him at any time, but refrains from doing so for his own selfish reasons.

Not, again, that this is a new insight; but people ought to be reminded of it from time to time.