Obama Keeps Wary Eye On Israel As It Lurches Far Right

Obama Keeps Wary Eye On Israel’s Reckless Slide Into Dangerous Right Wing Extremism

The White House is still uncertain about Israel’s new government

The United States has recently expressed its doubts over Israel’s new right-wing coalition and the role of the newly appointed Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, in this. According to the US simple make-up of this new coalition raises “legitimate questions” in particular regarding the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution in the conflict with Palestine. As i24 News stated, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said;

“Washington had “seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history. And we also know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in and what kind of policies it may adopt.”

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The US concern also comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named hardline nationalist Avigdor Lieberman as Defense Minister at the same time that he welcomed some lawmakers from Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party to the ranks of his coalition. Lieberman has been a controversial figure inside and outside Israel for his harsh right-wing position as well as his shocking comments. AJ+ has profiled his most shocking characteristics, including that he admitted assaulting a 12-year-old boy, he used to be a nightclub bouncer, he suggested cutting off the head of Palestinians with an ax and throwing prisoners into the sea, and he proposed  dropping weapons of mass destruction over Gaza. In fact, back in 2009 the US had boycott Lieberman when this was appointment by Netanyahu as foreign minister.

Unbreakable bonds of friendship?

In spite of this, a US senior official from the White House said after the appointment of Lieberman that the US was looking forward to working with him. State Department spokesman John Kirby said on May 20th;

“Our bonds of friendship are unbreakable, and our commitment to the security of Israel remains absolute.”

Something shocking since even inside Israel the appointment was seen as a “political earthquake“. Moshe Yaalon, the Likud member who resigned as defence minister last Friday has warned the Israeli government of a rising tide of extremism inside the party and the whole country by joinin forces of the religious right and the nationalist right. At the same time, former Labour prime minister and defence minister Ehud Barak did not stay quiet. As told by The Telegraph;

“Ehud Barak, who served as prime minister from 1999 until 2001, said that Mr Netanyahu’s enlarged coalition was “exhibiting signs of fascism”.

Yet, these comments and the new far-right coalition formed have made the White House uncertain on how eager is it to really work with this new government in Israel, which is the most right-wing government the country has ever had. Although Netanyahu has continued expressing his interest in negotiating peace with the Palestinians, Lieberman’s arrival has raised a lot of concern regarding the issue. It is also believed that Netanyahu invited Lieberman to join the government, with the only intention of strengthening his coalition, which previously had the support of just 61 out of 120 members of the Knesset (parliament). However, for many others it is seen as an intentional move from Netanyahu to strenghten Israel’s position in what has become a more threatening environment for Israel in the Middle East region with the US-Iran friendship. The White House, however, is already having a hard time with its own right-wing candidate, to have to deal with a similar one from one of its closest allies.

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Featured image by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.

From Mexico City, Carolina has lived in five different countries, experiences she defines as the most enriching. She has focused her studies and work on international conflicts and international security issues, diplomacy and protocol. Carolina holds two MA degrees and hopes to begin her PhD studies soon.