American and European officials have thus far declined to comment publicly on the expected appointment of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister. Behind the scenes, however, many officials are asking whether this appointment is really necessary - and newspapers on both continents are criticizing the move openly.
The official position in Washington is that Barack Obama's administration will work with whatever Israeli government is ultimately established. Beyond that, American officials are keeping mum.
But the "Lieberman question" continually arises in State Department briefings for journalists and in other forums. And opinion columns in the American press have presented Lieberman in an extremely negative light, with comparisons to Austria's Joerg Haider and even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, (both use "ultranationalist rhetoric of hate," one paper charged).
Lieberman snags this post as part of his door prize for entering into a Likud led coalition and for once I find a Ha’aretz article rather moderate for not strongly underlining his general unsuitableness for this position and instead focusing on the world’s perception of Lieberman.
Lieberman is loose cannon who regularly shots his mouth off in all directions and has an uncanny ability to offend just about everyone at the same time. Go search my archives under ‘Fun with Lieberman’. He is enormously entertaining as politician to watch in a three-stooges kind of way but an utter failure as a bridge builder or consensus maker. I cannot think of no one more able to set the hasbara campaign back to the stone ages in a single press or telephone conference than Lieberman. He should be considered the Israeli politician mostly like to start a world war.
I understand Likud’s first or even second choice for a coalition partner was not Israel Beiteinu, and in Bibi’s world, the ultimate coalition partners were Labor and Kadima, but Lieberman wanted in and would come in – a little horse-trading was certainly the order of the day, but surely to heavens, Lieberman could have been satisfied with something else. Not to mention, he might very well be the first Israeli Foreign Minister to have to conduct foreign policy from a jail cell.