Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Benny's Loose Cannon

It was obvious that when newly-minted Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed ultra-right nutjob Avigdor Lieberman to be his country's foreign minister it wouldn't take long for the sparks to fly.

As though Israel has something to gain from poking a sharp stick in Washington's eye, Liberman wasted no time announcing that Israel was not bound by understandings on the creation of a Palestinian state reached at a U.S.-sponsored conference at Annapolis in November 2007. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently reported on a secret side deal between Netanyahu and Lieberman that could make the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank all but hopeless:

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has struck a secret deal with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman for highly contentious construction on West Bank land known as E1, Army Radio reported Wednesday. A source close to the negotiations between the pair told Army Radio that the plan had been agreed upon even though it did not appear in the official document detailing the coalition deal between Yisrael Beiteinu and Netanyahu's Likud.

Construction in the area is particularly sensitive because it would create contiguity between the settlement and the capital, which in turn would prevent Palestinian construction between East Jerusalem and Ramallah. This would also make it difficult to reach agreement between Israel and the Palestinians on the question of permanent borders.

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