Will Avigdor Lieberman's merger with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "radicalize" the Israeli government's foreign affairs and security policies? The answer is no, and not just because of Yisrael Beytenu's record as a senior coalition partner for the past four years, which is a record of pragmatism on the foreign policy and security fronts, but because these policy issues were probably agreed upon by the sides before the merger.
On the Palestinian issue Netanyahu has made it clear more than once that he isn't willing to have the Arabs in Judea and Samaria and Gaza become citizens of Israel or that they become residents of Israel without basic civil and democratic rights. The diplomatic implication of such statements is unmistakable.
Regarding Leiberman's world view, including his comments on the Palestinians in a press conference over the weekend, one gets the impression that the two are on the same page on this issue.
In this regard the argument arises (albeit a futile one) over retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy's report. His committee of professionals did not reveal any great new truths, rather merely repeated basic principles and largely agreed-upon rules: That Judea and Samaria, Gaza (and Jerusalem, of course) are not "occupied territories”; they are disputed territories wherein Israel's legal, historical and political rights are no less (and even greater) than the Arabs there, who while inhabiting the area have never been the sovereign there.
The left-wing opposition in Israel, along with its "well wishers" abroad, has already jumped all over the Levy report to use it against the government. It's interesting that the Palestinians themselves were not especially troubled by the report. Indeed, their position is that there is no actual difference between Israel inside the Green Line and the territories beyond it; they are both "occupied" territories.
Obviously, no one should extract from the Levy report or the debate surrounding it that Israel led by Netanyahu and Lieberman intends to annex the "territories" tomorrow. Moreover, under their leadership, Israel will strive toward achieving a realistic arrangement with the Palestinians without abandoning our vital interests and basic rights, as previous governments have done. Therefore, the Levy report's conclusions should be approached from a political perspective, not a legislative one. The report should not be treated, of course, as a type of road map or codex for government policy over the next four years.
Coincidentally, a new Israeli ambassador to Jordan was recently appointed, which should be commended. The Palestinian problem has many consequences for the Hashemite kingdom and its future. However, instead of constantly regurgitating the routine slogans over Israel's alleged obligation to do this and that to advance the peace process, it would be better if Jordan's leaders and representatives took definitive action to move the Palestinian leadership from its position of intransigence to peace negotiations.
Jordan cannot stand idly by on matters pertaining to the future of the Palestinian problem, not just because it is a close neighbor but because two-thirds of its population is of Palestinian origin. Jordan, while it isn't Palestine, does have a crucial role to play in any future solution, and is ipso facto an "interested party" in any diplomatic initiatives in coming years.
Zalman Shoval is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., and has declared his intention to run in the 2013 Knesset elections on the Likud party list.