Israel Parliament Approves Avigdor Liberman as Defense Minister
Lieberman is likely to take on a pragmatic position and collaborate with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. However, he is far more likely than any other Israeli minister to be flexible on the question of Israeli support for terrorists in Syria, assuming he is assured that special measures will be taken to ensure that South Syria, especially the area close to Israel, won’t be taken over by Hezbollah or Iranian forces. He is likely to be more pragmatic than people realize while at the same time trying to forge better ties with Russia. Obama as a lame duck cannot prevent Israel and Russia from forming closer ties as elections are near. If Trump gets elected, the ties can be strengthened, while if Hillary gets elected, Lieberman and Netanyahu are likely to face intense pressure on a so-called peace process. However, it remains to be seen what Lieberman will do when faced with US pressure, whether he will cave right away or whether he will find a way to maneuver. In the meantime, the fact that Russia will be returning to Israel a tank taken during a June 11, 1982, battle in Syria during which three Israeli soldiers were taken captive is a positive sign, as it would probably not be done without the approval of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In my opinion, Lieberman is willing to be very pragmatic but has zero tolerance for terrorism and wishes to have agreements based on mutual respect. Therefore, a grand bargain with Syria and Hezbollah with Russian supervision is more possible than an agreement with the Palestinians (the latter have not been proven reliable in the past, have continued to carry out terror attacks, and are not a unified stable actor). The path to such a grand bargain lies through small but steady confidence-building measures. Also, the Netanyahu government is far more stable than critics realize and is here to stay. However, US is may be placing pressure on the Israeli court system to pursue criminal investigations against Netanyahu.