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November 7, 2013- Lieberman and Israeli Political Norms, Iran Agreement?

Yesterday I could not bring myself to write a post reporting the verdict that former, and soon to be again, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was found NOT guilty. MK Lieberman was found not guilty on the charge of "Breach of Trust", in a legal sense. Of course his supporters immediately greeted the verdict with cries of "what an injustice had been done by all these continued investigations. Of course what his supporters had not read– and what will be largely ignored – was the fact that in the detailed decision the judges stated that while Lieberman's actions were not criminal, they were actions "unbecoming of a minister of the government of Israel". Avigdor Lieberman will soon return to the Foreign Ministry (This, despite Lieberman's own testimony that he did not heed the recommendation of a key Foreign Ministry administrator who informed the MK that ambassadorial candidate Ben Arye – the focus of the investigation – was not qualified to run an embassy. Lieberman testified that "he did not pay attention to the conversation." He further added that "he was bored, watching the TV, over the shoulder of his guest, smoking his cigar and thinking about visiting his grandchildren.")

Of course, it is the more serious case against Lieberman that is most damning. This larger case was dropped, when the Attorney General concluded he did not have enough proof for a conviction. One of the key allegations – that has been proven true – is that Lieberman's daughter (21 year old at the time in question) earned millions of shekels as a consulting fee. However, what could not be proven, after the death and disappearance of many witnesses, was whether or not Lieberman had arranged this deal, or if he personally received the money. I guess the answer to these questions will have to wait for the fictionalized version of our recent history to come out.

The major news today is that Iran and the world powers are on the brink of an agreement. PM Netanyahu has come out against any such agreement. My "inbox" has been filling with petitions opposing the deal. While the exact details of the agreement are not known, the basic terms seem to be a partial loosening of the sanctions, in return for halting in the Iranian nuclear program. The Iranians would need to stop 20% enrichment of uranium, cut back 3% regular enrichment, and completely stop work at some additional nuclear enrichment sites. In addition, the Iranians would need to agree to additional supervision of their nuclear program– while talks would continue on a permanent agreement. I do not believe anything more than this could be achieved this quickly. The Western coalition, led by the U.S., desperately wants to stop the clock on the Iranian program before it is too late. There is no way that the Iranians will concede to an agreement that totally insults them. If there is to be an agreement, it must be done is such a way that allows them to save face. The formula above might work– if the Iranians are serious. There are no guarantees, but I doubt more could be achieved here. Yet, Israel is acting against its own self-interests by coming out publicly against the potential agreement. Even if Israel has deep reservations they should be voiced privately. Do I wish Iran would be forced to give up its program completley, yes, but the minute George W Bush decided to invade Iraq, American leverage went way down.

All this is taking place against the background of a crisis in Israel's talks with the Palestinians; a crisis brought on by the Netanyahu government by needlessly announcing they were building more housing in the West Bank, because they released a group of murderers. What is the connection? Politics, and the problem with the Likud since the time of Begin. They always talk big, but don’t necessarily act big. So we get the worst of both worlds– We do very little (in fact), except alienate our friends. In this case, we put Abbas in a terrible position, causing him to be called "a collaborator". The way Israeli officials put it, Abbas agreed to additional settlement building in return for the prisoner release. Again there was absolutely no thought or concern regarding the queston of Abbas' “face” with the public. Over 120 years since the beginning of the modern Zionist enterprise in this land, and we still do not get certain norms of behavior and speech.

Finally, Finance Minister Lapid gave a speech today. In the speech he stated that in the last eight years economic growth in this country as been 22.5 percent, while the average wage has gone up 2.2 percent (meaning, only the rich gained the beneifits from the growth.) Lapid claimed in an interview tonight on London and Kirchenbaum that that is the reason he went into politics. The only problem with that fact, is that (so far, to the best of my knowledge) he has developed no plans that will remediate this problem in any way.


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