Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lieberman is Dying to Say it

Source: Al Jazeera

When Europe's blood pressure went up over the use of fake European passports in the assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, changed his line from ambiguity to deniability. There is no proof of Israeli involvement, he retorted. And that is that.

My guess is that Lieberman had to 'cut the ambiguity' because the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, does not want to further exacerbate tensions with its European allies against the backdrop of continued illegal Jewish settlements and a deadlocked 'peace process'.

But Lieberman, the eccentric former nightclub bouncer, is dying to take responsibility for the assassination of Israel's "enemy combatant" to borrow from the Pentagon's dictionary.

Or, to paraphrase one of Hollywood's epics, A Few Good Men, " ... he's pissed off that he has to hide behind all this ... he wants to say that he made a command decision and that should be the end of it".

Lieberman loves to boast

An immigrant from Moldova who made his way to become Netanyahu's bureau chief in the mid-1990s, Lieberman made a name for himself in Israeli politics by calling in 1998 for the bombing of the Aswan Dam in retaliation for Egyptian support for the then Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

Lieberman reportedly called in 2002 for the transfer of Palestinian citizens of Israel from their homeland, claiming that there is "nothing undemocratic about transfer".

The following year, the head of the Yisrael Betainu Party called for thousands of Palestinian prisoners to be shipped to the Dead Sea and drowned there.

In 2006, he called for the assassination of Arab members of the Knesset who met with members of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

And in 2008, Lieberman told Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to "go to hell".

Spineless allies

Alas, none of Israel's spineless allies would provide Lieberman with the opportunity to cough it up or tell them to go to hell; none would come out in the open or in private to question the minister or put the heat on Israel to come clean.

Lieberman is right not to bother. As he told his British counterpart, David Miliband: "If someone would present information beyond articles in the media, we would relate to it ... but since there is no such information, there is no need to deal with the matter."

Instead, the British foreign minister pleaded with Lieberman in the most timid of ways. He asked kindly and politely for Israeli "cooperation" with an investigation into the use of forged British passports.

Miliband even tried appeasing arguably the most extremist leader in Israel - who supports the continued illegal occupation and colonisation of Palestinian and Syrian territories - by suggesting that Israel's cooperation is important because it has the most to gain from applying the rule of law in the Middle East!

Other Europeans were less timid, but just as indirect. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, condemned the assassination and European foreign ministers condemned forging their passports, but no mention of Israel whatsoever, and no attempt to open serious and frank dialogue with it over the assassination that could put Europeans and European security at risk.

So, as expected, the visit ended with Avigdor Lieberman flatly rebuffing David Miliband's request for cooperation with the investigation and instead ridiculing journalists for watching too many Hamas Bond movies.

Proving the need for proof

It is not the Bond movies that influence journalists, but every day news.

Europe and the US are more than willing to accuse Iran of developing a nuclear weapons programme with no proof, but hide behind the lack-of-proof excuse to avoid calling out Israel over forging passports and carrying out extra judicial assassinations.

They justify their escalation with Iran on the basis of 'mounting evidence', when it is at best circumstantial, but avoid confronting Israel over a far less dangerous accusation, when all the circumstantial evidence leads to the Mossad.

When was proof so important for Western powers to act or even to go to war? Did the Nato allies have proof of Osama bin Laden's and al-Qaeda's role in the 9/11 attacks before (or after) invading Afghanistan, or Taliban complicity with the attack? Osama bin Laden's boasting at a later date hardly counts for proof.

Or, did they have proof of chemical weapons for the invasion of Iraq? Or did they need proof when it could be just as easily manufactured?

As for proof of Mossad's activity, generally Israel's policy of ambiguity covers those acts it carries out, not the ones it would not. In other words, Israel uses denial when it does not want to give the impression it carried out an attack, but when it uses ambiguity, as Lieberman did immediately after the attack, it usually means it did.

In the words of the hero of A Few Good Men, Europe needed to shake Lieberman, "put him on the defensive and lead him right where he is dying to go".

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