By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Even the day after the terrible tragedy in the school in Connecticut, the Israeli papers found space on their front pages for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation. Though the prosecution has dropped against him all the serious charges that have been on the books for many years, it intends to indict him on one relatively minor offence: a diplomat obtained secret information about Lieberman’s case and shared it with him; when the latter became Foreign Minister, he promoted the informant.
A quick plea bargain is expected in good time to allow Lieberman to remain the Number Two (after Netanyahu) on the Likud-Beyteynu list in next month’s general election. No wonder that Bernard Avishai, a keen observer of the Israeli scene and a blogger in The Daily Beast, puts quotation marks around that “resignation.” However, the judiciary may not permit that quick plea bargain and thus thwart Lieberman’s move.
“If he is not actually convicted,” writes Avishai, “I fear this whole episode will do him more good than harm.” For many suspect that Lieberman has calculated that he’ll use the matter to his advantage by demonstrating how the corrupt Israeli establishment, particularly the Police, and the decadent left-wing Supreme Court are after him fearing that unless they put him in jail he’ll get them when he’s “cleaning up” the country.
That’s the ticket on which Lieberman has been running so far. He has been improbably successful because a lot of people feel equally “maltreated” by the democratic order. They vote for him and trust him “to sort things out” according to his rigid right-wing ultra-nationalist ideology. (Compared to the magnitude of the ambition of Lieberman and his supporters, the antics of Mayor Rob Ford ofToronto, though somewhat of the same ilk, seem like a child’s play.)
Thus the case that has been dropped is the one that should really give us cause for concern. But the main witness against Lieberman is said now to want to testify in his favor. Others have died or may not wish to appear in court. Hence the “lack of evidence.”
Avishai sums up the abandoned case: “Lieberman returned to the Knesset in 2004, and his 21-year old daughter Michal was suddenly named the director of a consulting firm, which was actually an obvious means through which her father received payments from ‘foreign sources,’ 11 million shekels in all. (The payments were listed as consulting fees, though the daughter was a student of literature atHebrewUniversity.) Lieberman also received more than 2 million shekels in salary, for two years of employment.” Yet Lieberman insists that he has done nothing wrong.
In an interview before his “resignation” he said that he didn’t wish to continue as Foreign Minister after the elections. He’s interested in Finance and related portfolios. And he doesn’t seem to be keen to leave Foreign Affairs to his deputy Danny Ayalon; in fact, he dropped him from the Likud-Beyteynu list altogether, even though Ayalon has invariably acted as his master’s voice, albeit in better Hebrew and English accents.
Though I’ve no concrete evidence, I greatly fear that all this is an exercise calculated to prepare Lieberman to succeed Netanyahu in one way or another (!). That would turn him into the nearest to a tsar thatIsraelwill have had. It’s not unreasonable to speculate thatRussia’s President Putin is his role model.
We must pray hard with the words of Fiddler on the Roof on our lips: “May God keep our tsar – far away from us.” A Guilty verdict might help the prayer come true.