Faced with growing pressure from France and the international community, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed 57-year-old Moldova-born former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to defense minister. Viewed as a hawk by the Obama administration, Lieberman heads the ultra-conservative Yisrael Beiteinu Party, part of Netanyahu’s governing coalition. Raised in the Soviet satellite of Moldova before immigrating to Israel in 1978, Lieberman considers himself a pragmatist, not swayed or deterred by U.N. powers largely sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Faced with growing terrorist attacks in France, French Foreign Minister Jean-March Ayrault decided to convene international foreign ministers June 2 to discuss a possible fix the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. Lieberman’s presence signals Israel won’t compromise national security for a peace deal.
Viewed as a fascist by Palestinians, Lieberman mirrors the same security-minded issues as Netanyahu, refusing, under growing international pressure, to capitulate to U.N. demands to honor 1968 U.N. Resolution 242, returning all lands confiscated by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. French and U.S. officials know perfectly well, given the rise of ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, it’s impossible to return to the pre-1967 borders. Palestinians claim Egypt’s Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, Jordan’s West Bank and East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights as sovereign territory, when, in fact, Palestinians held no sovereign territory before the Six Day war and certainly not before the 1948 Israel War of independence. Prior to 1948, the British held sovereignty to what was once called the “British mandate of Palestine.” Britain received the territory from the League of Nations July 24, 1922 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Netanyahu and Lieberman know the history and won’t be bullied by Palestinian claims that Israel occupies sovereign Palestinian territory. While it’s true that Arab states show sympathies to Palestinians, it’s also true that Israel does not “occupy” Palestinian territory. When President Barack Obama ordered Secretary of State John Kerry to work on an Israeli-Palestinian peace, including a two-state solution, Kerry failed to complete a deal in 2014, after neither Palestinians nor Israelis agreed on direct talks. Kerry tried but failed to force Israel into making more land-for-peace concessions, especially since 81-year-old West Bank PLO Leader Mahmoud Abbass joined Gaza’s Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh in a coalition government. Accepting no past peace agreements, Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction, making Mideast peace impossible, despite Kerry pushing for a deal.
Lieberman’s views on Israeli security closely parallel those of former President George W. Bush who broke off relations with the PLO because of its longstanding ties with terrorism. Bush’s Doctrine banned the State Department from negotiation with terrorists, regardless of their history and excuses. Obama returned to a pre-Sept. 11 mindset, seeking to pressure Israel into making concessions that would harm both U.S. and Israeli national security. Given the state of terrorism in the Middle East, Israel’s in no position to return to the pre-1967 borders, no matter what the pressure in Paris or elsewhere. Before any preliminary discussions get underway in Paris, Palestinians will have to end their war against Israel. Whatever misgivings Arab State have about Israel, they approved Israel’s entrance to the U.N., making Israel a sovereign state March 4, 1949.
Whatever happened after the 1967 War, it’s not up to Palestinians or any other Arab state to decide sovereignty of land seized during armed conflict. Under the 1949 Geneva Convention, spoils of war become part of sovereign land once military conflicts end. Whether or not Israel decided to return spoils of the 1967 War, as they did when returning the Sinai Peninsula in 1979 or Gaza Strip in 2005, it’s not subject to Palestinian sovereignty, no matter what Palestinian’s say. “This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be heading in and what kind of politics I may adopt,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told the press regarding Lieberman’s appointment as defense minister. Obama officials have shown tone deafness to Israel’s security concerns when it comes to accepting more France led and U.N.-backed suggestions for a two-state solution.
Calling Lieberman a right wing extremist doesn’t change basic facts on the ground in Israel or its buffer zones in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, East Jerusalem or Golan Heights. Given the terror picture in the Middle East, expecting Israel to trade more territory-for-peace is unrealistic, especially because of Palestinian ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and other Sunni terror groups. When the U.S. State Department comments about Israeli politics, especially Lieberman’s appointment, it helps no one, showing White House ineptness handling Mideast diplomacy. When Kerry attends the June 2 Paris peace conference, he should only think in terms of what’s best for Israeli-and-U.S. national security. It goes without saying that the majority of U.N. states sympathize with Palestinian demands for more territory. Whatever the pressure, neither Netanyahu nor Lieberman will compromise on Israeli security.