Imagine a country that appoints someone who has been found guilty of striking a 12-year-old boy to be its foreign minister. The person in question is also under investigation for money laundering, fraud and breach of trust; in addition, he was a bona fide member of an outlawed racist party and currently leads a political party that espouses fascist ideas. On top of all this, he does not even reside in the country he has been chosen to represent.He's corrupt, children might not be safe around him and he supports ethnic cleansing. What have I missed here? The guy's a zionist.
Even though such a portrayal may appear completely outlandish, Israel's new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, actually fits the above depiction to the letter.
In 2001, following his own confession, Lieberman was found guilty of beating a 12-year-old boy. As part of a plea bargain, Lieberman was fined 17,500 shekels and had to promise never to hit young children again.
In 2004, Lieberman's 21-year-old daughter Michal set up a consulting firm, which received 11m shekels from anonymous overseas sources. Lieberman, according to the police, received more than a 2.1m-shekel salary from the company for two years of employment. In addition, according to an investigation by Haaretz, he allegedly received additional severance pay – amounting to hundreds of thousands of shekels in 2006 and 2007, while he was minister of strategic affairs and deputy prime minister. According to Israeli law, this is illegal.
Lieberman is an ex-member of Meir Kahane's Party, Kach, which was outlawed due to its blatantly racist platform. Moreover, his views towards Arabs do not appear to have changed over the years.
In 2003, when reacting to a commitment made by prime minister Ariel Sharon to give amnesty to approximately 350 Palestinian prisoners, Lieberman declared that, as minister of transport, he would be more than happy to provide buses to take the prisoners to the sea and drown them there.
Ok, he is more open about his politics but apparently Ehud Barak said in the election campaign that he wants to do exactly what Lieberman wants to do but that he thought it best not to be too open about these things. A reminded of Peres's dictum, Likud says, Labour does.
Anyway, Gordon does end on a relevant and important note:
In January 2006, Hamas won a landslide victory in elections that were no less democratic than the recent elections in Israel. While Hamas is, in many respects, a political party, its politicians are representatives of the Palestinian people and are seen as struggling for liberation and self-determination.Yes, if western states are going to justify meeting with the new Israeli foreign minister on the grounds that he was elected then meeting with Hamas would be consistent but let's not pretend that zionism was nice until Lieberman came along. Neve Gordon knows better than that.
If Western leaders want to be conceived as credible, they must change their policy and meet with Hamas as well. Otherwise, their decision to meet Lieberman will be rightly perceived as hypocritical and duplicitous, and the pervasive perception in the region – that the United States and Europe are biased in Israel's favor – will only be strengthened.