Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bibi Under Pressure

UPDATE: Smart journalist provides a more in-depth analysis of the Lieberman-Netanyahu dynamic in Haaretz.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is shocked,
shocked, to find out that an Israeli MK met with a Turkish official secretly in the aftermath of the flotilla raid, with the knowledge of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Presumably FM Lieberman understands the deep nuances of international diplomacy and resents the swift-boating of tender relations between Israel and Turkey...

Or something.

In reality, this very public complaint is Lieberman playing to his base. Just after the raid, Lieberman's rhetoric was extremely tame (see earlier posts), likely the result of pressure from Netanyahu. Lieberman likely resented being muzzled and his base was likely frustrated that he wasn't more outspoken. Now that the situation is a bit more static, Lieberman is taking the liberty of shoring up a bit of support.

The bigger question will be how PM Netanyahu reacts to this challenge, especially just a few days before he arrives in Washington D.C. Most likely, Netanyahu is unlikely (not to mention unable) to "McChrystal" Mr. Lieberman. Having Lieberman as the "radical" makes Netanyahu appear to be the moderate conservative, beholdent to the radical impulses of his foreign minister. Lieberman is essentially a relief valve Netanyahu will now be able to successfully release when pressure from President Obama gets too high during Netanyahu's visit.

The other key factor will be whether the moderate center of Israel feels defiant like Lieberman, or desires a pragmatic path out of the flotilla raid mess. Netanyahu is a very shrewd politician, and will almost definitely consider how his response will play among the Israeli public.

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