Meet Israeli Foreign Minister-in-waiting Avigdor Lieberman. The rise of a bigot as a nation’s chief diplomat ought to be understood as a political failure. It’s hard to imagine there’s anyone in Israel, including Benjamin Netanyahu, who honestly believes that Lieberman is capable of advancing Israel’s interests abroad. Instead, he’ll be viewed, and viewed rightly, as an indication of an Israeli turn toward open antagonism with the rest of the world.

Of course there’s really just one country that Israel can’t afford to clash with, and for that reason, Lieberman’s first meeting with George Mitchell will be fun for all involved. The U.S. has taken a leftward turn with respect to the peace process just as Israel has taken a rightward one. The central challenge for Lieberman and Netanyahu will be to tell Barack Obama no without actually telling Obama no outright. Arab governments will rightly consider Lieberman’s ascension as an opportunity to test the tensile strength of U.S.-Israeli bonds. 

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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