Saturday, February 6, 2010

Oh-oh, there he goes again. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Thank-Gd-for-Loose-Canons Avigdor Lieberman, saying things he’s not supposed to be saying.

Not that what he said isn’t true, mind you. Just that he’s not supposed to say it. Just like when Education Minister Limor Livnat noted that the Obama administration was “awful” and “not a friend of Israel”, Lieberman voiced an inconvenient truth, words not included in the lexicon of diplomacy.

So what did the delightfully plain speaking Lieberman say this time? He warned Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad that if he dared to attack Israel, he’d see his own regime collapse.

What’s wrong with that? Seems like a truism. Barring some monumental catastrophe, if Assad did attack Israel, it’s highly likely he’d lose the war. (If he thought he could win, he’d have attacked already.) And if Assad pushed his country into a losing war, it’s highly likely he’d lose his throne where, many commentators say, he’s not sitting all that securely anyway. What’s the big deal?

Ah, but it was another gratuitous tidbit of commentary that Lieberman threw in that really set Israel’s liberals all a-twitter. Simply stated, Lieberman told Syria they better forget about ever getting the Golan Heights away from Israel.

Now there’s an inflammatory statement – to the leftists of the world. To suggest that any part of the “West Bank” – Judea and Samaria – will forever remain part of Israel is incendiary at best and war-mongering at worst.

Let’s put the whole thing in context:

Assad kicked off the back-and-forth between Lieberman and himself – not directly, of course – both were speaking to others, not each other. Assad fired the first volley when he told the Spanish Foreign Minister that “Israel was pushing the Middle East into a new war.”

(Which, we have to note, by Assad’s lights, is also true. By refusing to lay down and die, Israel is indeed “forcing” its enemies in the neighborhood to attack it again, if they want to get rid of the pesky Jewish entity.)

Lieberman, never one to back away from a challenge, responded in a speech at Bar-Ilan University: "Our message should be that if Assad's father lost a war but remained in power, the son should know that an attack would cost him his regime," Lieberman continued. "This is the message that must be conveyed to the Syrian leader by Israel."

"Whoever thinks territorial concessions will disconnect Syria from the axis of evil is mistaken," Lieberman went on. "Syria must be made to understand that it has to relinquish its demand for the Golan Heights."

Whoa! There we have it – the words that set the leftists into a tailspin. What? Israel intends to keep the Golan Heights forever? That can’t be – the only path to peace is via territorial concessions! Only by giving up land – all of it, eventually, but most certainly the Golan Heights for a starter – can Israel ever expect peace.

Which is also true: if Israel gives up the Golan Heights, it will have peace. The peace of the grave.

(Why? Military defensibility, certainly, but in a single word, water. Almost all of Israel’s fresh drinking water originates in the Golan Heights. No country can survive for very long if it turns its source of drinking water over to its enemies.)

But Lieberman wasn’t permitted to say such a thing. The Forces of Diplomacy went into overdrive to insist that 1. Lieberman didn’t mean to say what he said, followed by 2. If Lieberman did mean what he said, he should be fired. Bibi started by telling his cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser to phone all the ministers and tell them that they should not comment to the media, in any way, on the subject of Syria.

The brouhaha continues. The people who want Lieberman gone continue to call for his firing, resignation or ritual seppuku, whichever can be accomplished first.

The rest of us applaud the Foreign Minister for saying what he did. It’s heartening to know that in Bibi’s cabinet, there’s at least one minister who openly voices support for the Land of Israel.

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