Wednesday, October 7, 2009

FM wants 'new Israeli foreign policy' - less dependence on US, ties with 3rd world

(JPOST).The policy staff in Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's office has drawn up a secret memo calling for a radical refocus of Israeli foreign policy toward the developing world, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

According to sources, the foreign minister plans to bring the five-page preliminarypolicy paper to the ministry's senior professional staff in the coming days, to begin discussion on implementing what is being described as "guidelines for a whole new foreign policy."

According to a copy of the memo obtained by the Post, the new policy involves moving away from a "lone dependence" on the United States as a strategic ally, to developing broader and closer ties with other world powers and with the developing world.

The document, which was developed in recent weeks at Lieberman's request, focuses on three major shifts in policy: expanding ties with parts of the world "neglected" by previous governments, lowering international expectations of a breakthrough in negotiations with the Palestinians and creating a "zero-tolerance" policy for anti-Semitic expressions worldwide.

The memo chastises the Foreign Ministry for "becoming the 'Ministry for Palestinian Affairs,' with Israeli foreign policy almost entirely consumed by this single issue."

The almost exclusive focus of diplomacy on the Arab-Israeli conflict "has hurt Israeli interests in the [broader] international arena and in our relations with the United States and Europe," the memo states.

"There is no replacement for Israel's special relations with the United States," the memo continues, calling America "without a doubt Israel's best friend in the world.

"But," it continues, "the lone dependence on the United States is unhealthy for either side and presents difficulties for the US. Israel must build coalitions with other states on the basis of shared interests. In this way, it will expand and strengthen the circle of support, something which will be a relief for the US as well."

In particular, the memo protests as "inconceivable" that Israel's relations with the US "should center only on the Palestinian issue. There are many other important issues facing the two states, including regional security, the struggle against terrorism and cooperation in scientific research, economic [issues] and cultural [issues]."

In working to expand ties outside the US-Israel relationship, the document criticizes past Israeli policy vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

"For decades, Israel has neglected entire regions and continents, including Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and Central and Southeast Asia. The cost of this neglect has been immense, and has been evident at the UN and other international forums."

According to the document, "it's hard to accept the claim that [Israel's difficulties in international forums] are due to 'the world being against us' when it is we who have abandoned vast swaths of the planet."

The memo faults past diplomats for "trying to 'catch' representatives [of African and Latin American states] at random, just moments before a decisive UN vote."

It calls such efforts "pathetic and reflecting a lack of effort or thorough systematic thinking. Can we really expect such countries, who receive neither visits from Israeli leaders nor [Israeli] investment, to vote in our favor?

"Only by building broad coalitions and through long-term investment in ties with continents and states that have been neglected for many years can Israel improve its ability to deal with the challenges ahead."

The document calls for a new surge of "meetings of senior officials, development and resource aid, strengthened economic and business ties, etc., [which] will create a situation in which Israel is not a lone actor in the international arena."

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the memo notes that "16 years have passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords. That is a long enough period, which saw governments established of the Left, Center and Right, to allow us to understand that peace cannot be imposed from above, but must be constructed from the foundations."

In an apparent critique of US President Barack Obama's efforts for an immediate jump-start of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the memo says that attempts "to impose an immediate, total and comprehensive solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are preordained to fail."

Noting a series of failed "artificial" deadlines, including the 1993 five-year plan for the Oslo process, the renewal in 1999, and the efforts and deadlines of US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the document calls for lowered expectations of the current effort.

"Creating [exaggerated] expectations as though it is possible to arrive [in the near term] at a comprehensive settlement ending the conflict could lead us once again to disappointment and frustration that will damage our relations with the United States and Europe and lead to a violent response from the Palestinians."

The document calls for "a more realistic approach that emphasizes improving the situation on the ground, which will bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a calmer point that will take it off the international agenda.

"We can reach a temporary settlement between the sides, even without solving the core issues, including Jerusalem, the right of return and borders. This is the most that can be achieved realistically, and it is crucial to convince the United States and Europe of this."

The memo also seeks to bring a new focus on worldwide anti-Semitism.

"In addition to the classical forms [of anti-Semitism], we are seeing it manifested also in boycotts of Israeli goods and academic institutions, and in political-legal suits against Israeli leaders and military personnel visiting Europe."

It calls for "a policy of zero tolerance toward anti-Semitic expressions and blood libels against Jews and Israel."

Citing "attacks on Jewish communities around the world and the undermining of Israel's legitimate right to defend itself," the document says the Foreign Ministry "must not take such expressions lightly."