The ritual is familiar: Every few months the Israeli political world stops and holds its breath, waiting to hear what will come out of the mouth of the oracle who has just now landed from a trip to a country that entered our consciousness only with the appointment of the Yisrael Beitenu chairman to the post of foreign minister - Kazakhstan, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan.
To date, the periodic crises of Avigdor Lieberman have ended with nothing. He was careful to pour cold water on the media-hyped drama and restore calm (or threaten, depending on who was listening ) by stating that the Netanyahu coalition was stable and that he had no intention of leaving it. He also knew how to make his position sound logical, and for the most part even justified.
Sources close to the foreign minister made it clear yesterday that he will not announce his resignation today. He will not give that pleasure to anyone. Certainly not to Tzipi Livni, who is already trying out new fabrics for curtains at the Foreign Ministry, or to Ehud Barak, who also wants to see him gone.
In any case, we shouldn't downplay the severity of the current political crisis, which broke out over the budget - even though there a lot of kinks in Lieberman's work relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in the ties between their respective parties. The problems relate to issues including legislation that Likud has foiled, the temporary appointment of an ambassador to the United Nations, Netanyahu's rejection of a proposed conversion law, and a meeting between Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu two weeks ago, behind Lieberman's back.
There is no escaping it: Lieberman has a case. He is a loyal partner. His party is the largest in the coalition, with 15 MKs who vote as one, who follow orders. And Netanyahu seems to challenge Lieberman's party a lot more than he does smaller, less reliable, less united ones. Is Netanyahu planning to force Lieberman out as part of some bold political move for a breakthrough in the peace process with Kadima's backing? Has the prime minister decided to hand Lieberman the right wing while he takes over the political center? That is hard to believe. It would not be the Bibi we have come to know.
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