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A public diplomacy gamble

Reader comment on item: Avigdor Lieberman's Brilliant Debut

Submitted by Rafi (United States), Apr 7, 2009 at 12:57

If Lieberman's goal is to improve Israel's public image, he's got a lot of hurdles to jump, especially given his recent past as a radical infalmmatory Israeli politican in the opposition. He is indubitably intelligent, but his tendency to make offhand statements that simply infurtiate governments and peoples is a sincere risk for the Israeli people. The Israeli politicians (especially Livni) were wary in their seats listening to him because they're waiting for him to say something truly outlandish.

On a diplomatic angle, he may likely hurt Israel's national interests with his demand that his Egyptian counterpart visit Israel. Such a move, if the Egyptian FM took it, could spark revolution in Egypt. At the least it will delegitimize the Egyptian government, considering how much public flak it took by criticizing Hamas during the recent Gaza operation.

On the other hand, Lieberman's hard-line stance may make a positive impression on the Egyptian people: that Israel is once again a power to be reckoned with, as it was during the days of Anwar Sadat. Seemingly, Lieberman will have to ramp up lower-level diplomacy to maintain the structure of the Egyptian-Israeli relationship and also to show the Egyptian people that Israel is actually actively working towards the fulfillment of the Road Map. This is by no means a simple process, but it will be necessary.

Another option for Lieberman is to abandon Egypt entirely and rely on Turkey for working with regional actors, especially Syria and Saudi Arabia. However, considering recent inflammatory remarks made by the Turkish government against Israel, this will wrap the Israeli government in contradictions and hurt the Israeli image overall.

Probably the best possibility for the Israelis at this point is for the US to organize a region-wide conference on Iran and force other governments to sit down with the US and the Israelis. If relations at the conference go smoothly and effectively, then the Israelis will have enough public credit to make some sweeping diplomatic moves, relieving pressure on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and focusing on the Iranian nuclear dilemma.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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