The Washington Times’ omnipresent Potus Notes political and foreign policy blogger Jon Ward did a very nice write-up of some parts of a “blogger breakfast session” that I hosted this morning with Mark Schmitt, editor of The American Prospect. This morning’s topic focused on the state of Israel/Palestine “stuff” and broader Middle East dynamics and featured New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force co-directors Daniel Levy and Amjad Atallah.
This is a slice from Jon Ward’s good report:
[Daniel] Levy, a former Israeli government policy adviser, talked about Israel’s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, a hardliner’s hardliner on issues regarding compromise with the Palestinians.
Levy said that with Lieberman’s success in last month’s elections, which gave him the leverage to gain the foreign minister post in Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, it’s “very difficult to pretend … it’s business as usual” in Israel.
“Lieberman chose to run a campaign of overt ugly pretty much no holds barred racism against Israeli’s arab citizens,” Levy said.
Lieberman received popular support from Israelis, he said, because “48 years of occupation has a brutalizing effect on a society.”
Lieberman, however, “sees himself as a future israeli leader,” Levy said, and is currently on a charm offensive to soften his image abroad. One obstacle to his ascent to prime minister, Levy said, is a perception among Israelis that “this former bouncer, which is what he is, thug, will never be accepted in the world.”
“He needs to show to Israelis, the world will accept me, the world will love me,” Levy said.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, need to meet with Israeli Arabs to send a message that they do not agree with mistreatment of this 20 percent minority, Levy said.
Atallah, who has advised the Palestinian Authority on peace negotiations, said that Israel will not work toward a two-state solution unless the Obama administration pressures them to do so, especially under the new government.
“We’ve made it easy for Israel to continue doing things it shouldn’t do,” Attallah said.
For example, he said, the U.S. has in the past made statements of disapproval about Israeli settlements that the Israelis have not taken seriously because the U.S. has not inflicted consequences for Israel’s continued construction of settlements in Palestinian territories.
“That’s an incentive for them to continue building settlements,” Attalah said.
There was a lot more to the discussion as well — particularly more on the possibility of the Ehud Barak-led Labor Party joining Netanyahu’s government which would leave Tzipi Livni as the de facto head of the Israeli peace movement.
Maybe Netanyahu will give Barack Obama some tips on his approach to a “team of rivals.”
— Steve Clemons