Lieberman: Take 2


As a 24-6 media Web site trying to bring you the world with limited resources, sometimes we end up having to rely on the reporting of others to bring you the news in a timely manner. And sometimes that means we end up passing along the mistakes of others.

Take for example Avigdor Lieberman’s first speech as Israeli foreign minister.

Relying on the initial reports (without the benefit of the full text), our initial news brief followed the pack in playing up Lieberman’s rejection of Annapolis:

Lieberman: Israel not obligated by Annapolis

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel is not obligated by commitments made at the 2007 Annapolis conference, Avigdor Lieberman said.
At a ceremony Wednesday marking the start of Lieberman’s tenure as Israel’s foreign minister, Lieberman said, "There is only one document that binds us and it is not the Annapolis conference," which restarted peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

He said Israel’s government only adopted the 2002 "road map," and that Israel will adhere to its requirements scrupulously. Lieberman pointed out that the road map requires the Palestinians to stop terrorism and set up a viable government.

Lieberman also said he would like to visit Egypt and welcomed its leaders to Israel, and that Egypt is important for achieving Mideast stability. Late last year, Lieberman said during a Knesset session that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "should come here. If he doesn’t want to come here, he can go to hell."

As it turned out, this spin on the speech reflected the biases of journalists locked into the Lieberman-as-prince-of-darkness storyline. A more nuanced take would underscore the fact that on his first day on the job, Lieberman announced that Israel was committed to the “road map” — as in…  “A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

So, in other words, it would have been just as legit — and probably more newsworthy — to run with a “Lieberman endorses Palestinian state” headline. (Herb Keinon of The Jerusalem Post makes the point here.)

By the end of the day, our news brief had been reworked. The new headline is “Lieberman: Israel obligated by ‘road map,’ not Annapolis,” and the text follows from there.

Considering the hoopla over Lieberman’s previous disparaging of Hosni Mubarak and threat to bomb the Answn Dam, it’s also worth noting that Lieberman went out of his way to signal a positive approach toward Egypt:

What is important is to maintain global and regional stability. Egypt is definitely an important country in the Arab world, a stabilizing factor in the regional system and perhaps even beyond that, and I certainly view it as an important partner. I would be happy to visit Egypt and to host Egyptian leaders here, including the Egyptian Foreign Minister — all based on mutual respect.

None of this is to suggest that Lieberman has morphed into Shimon Peres, or even Ariel Sharon. Lieberman was his Aleph male self, stressing the view that peace will only be achieved through strength — and insisting that the Palestinians (and Israel) must live up to their “road map” commitments before any final deal.

But the speech was not, as generally reported, the equivalent of Lieberman giving the White House and the rest of the international community the middle finger.

Read the full text and judge for yourself.

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