Beating drums of war or military posing? A look at Israel’s new ministerial appointment

Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam
Avigdor Lieberman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin © Ammar Awad
Israel has a new Minister of War… sorry – a new Minister of Defense, to navigate it to safer, calmer waters – or so goes the fairy tale. Actually no, Israel’s fairy tale long abandoned any real ambition for peace – at least not with the Palestinians.

Israel’s political landscape is changing. So far, I doubt that anyone disagrees. The real question is: changing to what? And more importantly how such change will impact the geopolitical regional balance? With Avigdor Lieberman now in charge of Israel’s military future, a great many Middle Eastern capitals are looking anxiously towards Tel Aviv, trying to assess what new violence neocons might unleash against them.

But will it? Seriously now, Lieberman’s appointment might say more about Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s desire to assert his hold on Israel’s future, than it does about any real ambition to beat war drums. At least not yet. Israel only just waged war on Gaza (summer 2014). By Tel Aviv’s own cycle of war we can expect another 12 to 18 months of relative peace – emphasis on relative. It is difficult to look on Gaza and the West Bank and not see a people under military occupation. The conflict between Israel and Palestinians dates back to 1948… We are still waiting for any real resolution to take hold. But today is not the day to discuss those issues.

Today we are talking about Israel ministerial change.

So yes Lieberman is the neocon of all neocons, the darling of the far-right, and a self-professed ultra-nationalist who would like nothing better but to annihilate what he perceives as a threat to Israel’s integrity.

A man well known for “his truculence toward neighboring Arab states, demands for mass national loyalty oaths at home, and past support for stripping hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs of their citizenship—among other things—have long been seen as putting him beyond the pale,” wrote Nathan Guttman.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who also served as defense minister under Netanyahu, has warned of “the seeds of fascism” being planted with Lieberman’s ascension.

Minister Lieberman is a true son of Israel – victory over all, to whatever cost … all in the name of the greater good, of course.

It was Robert Fisk, the prominent investigative journalist, who, in an article for the Independent in 2009 wrote: “The Iraqis produced the hateful Saddam … for reasons of sanity, I leave out the weird ruler of Libya – and now the Israelis have exalted a man, Avigdor Lieberman, who out-Sharons even Ariel Sharon.”

But what if Lieberman’s new ministerial position had absolutely nothing to do with war? Let’s look at Israel objectively here – forget foreign policy for a second, and try to see things from PM Netanyahu’s standpoint.

While Netanyahu is still sitting atop Israel’s political pyramid, his support base is not as thick as it used to be. His position as prime minister now stands on very shaky ground, and he absolutely needs to widen his net, should he succeed to make it into the political annals, and beat former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion’s longevity in office.

Do not underestimate Netanyahu’s blind political ambition. The man can only see himself through the power that he projects onto his people. For this prime minister power is the end-game – not political ideologies, and not Israel’s welfare.

And so Netanyahu had to tap into the far-right to buy time, and maybe redeem himself in the eyes of his own political faction: the Likud.

Let me put it under a different light – Netanyahu is stuck in between a rock and a hard place. At home his popularity has dropped: not even his usual war narrative has distracted Israelis from the fact that their economy is slowing down. If the Jewish State stands still, a military superpower courtesy of the US patronage, its economic health has left something to be desired. In between rising costs, nepotism, the ever-disturbing tales of corruption, and abuses of power, Netanyahu has recognized what storm could hit him. Add to that frustrated European capitals over labeling issues on products coming from illegal settlements, as well as insistent US and French calls for peace with Palestine, and you have yourself one desperate prime minister.

I am not suggesting that Israel is losing its foreign backing here, I am only pointing to the fact that Netanyahu’s own brand of politics might have exasperated one too many foreign heads of state.

This is how Aaron David Miller from CNN conveyed his analysis: “More than anything else, Mr. Netanyahu's Lieberman gambit reflects his desire to create a coalition that allows him to keep his seat of power.”

I wholeheartedly agree! Israel does not need a Lieberman to go to war by the way. Israel already has a Netanyahu to do that. I would even go as far as suggest that war will always stand at the core of Israel’s political being – the one constant which has allowed – and will most likely allow, for the state to remain upright.

Israel only knows war. Since its very inception Israel has been at war: with its neighbors, with Palestine, with the Middle East, with any nation challenging its policies.

Avigdor Lieberman is merely the product of a political ideology anchored in war, ethnic supremacism, and sectarianism. What violence could the man ever cook up which hasn’t already been unleashed?

Yes of course there is always the risk of further violence against Palestinians, and Israeli Arabs - but then again Israel’s propensity to shed blood has been well-documented, if not adequately addressed.

Israel is not done with the Middle East – not by a mile. THIS reality though is unlikely to be influenced by Tel Aviv’s political musical chair. Israel’s rear seat of power lies not with the Lieberman and Netanyahu of this world but the ideological current they carry. It is the ideology we should focus on, not its expressions.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.