The ancient Jewish sages said that one can gain one's whole world in an hour or lose one's whole world in an hour. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had a golden opportunity to gain his whole world in the Israeli political arena. The man who headed a party that was not very large was appointed foreign minister of the State of Israel and stepped into the shoes of Moshe Sharett, Abba Eban, Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir.

This writer believes that everyone, certainly people who take on such responsible positions, should be given credit - a fair chance to prove themselves. People should not only enjoy the presumption of innocence, but also the presumption that they are fit to do their job. Indeed, at the time I wrote a column in this newspaper in which I stated "Lieberman is neither a racist nor a fascist," although I disagreed with his way and many of his positions.

Unfortunately, Lieberman has proved that he was not worthy of that credit. We did not expect him to change his opinions, but we did expect him to behave in a statesmanlike and responsible manner, befitting the position he holds, as does his fellow party member, the public security minister. Some had hoped that Lieberman's appointment to such a high post with such great responsibility would transform him from a vote-seeking politician to a leader of national stature. The higher the expectations are, the harder they fall.

Lieberman's first blunder was his scandalous appearance at the United Nations General Assembly. The person who speaks in Israel's name at the opening of the General Assembly - whether it is the prime minister, the foreign minister or the deputy ambassador - must present the Israeli government's declared positions, not his own private doctrine. Lieberman humiliated the State of Israel and presented it as a half-weakened country.

Lieberman's appearance at the conference of Israel's ambassadors was coarsely unstatesmanlike. The foreign minister has the right to present positions that diverge from those of his prime minister, although that is not desirable. However, the place to present them, if at all, is at a meeting of his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, or at a Knesset debate when he is speaking in the name of his faction; certainly not at a meeting of Israel's ambassadors, who are meant to return to their posts and present Israel's positions in a unified voice. Lieberman's speech denouncing the policies of the prime minister in the government in which he serves was shameful.

Worse yet was his horror show last week, in which he roundly accused all human rights groups in Israel of undermining the state and the Israel Defense Forces and abetting terror, and said that Haaretz is also an accessory to terror. Indeed, there are groups in Israel that have crossed red lines and exceeded what is permissible in a democratic country, and they should be dealt with by the legal system. But that is a long way from a sweeping accusation in a manner that is harshly and patently incitement. That is truly McCarthyism.

Lieberman may not be a racist or a fascist, but he is divisive, a demagogue and a populist - and that is just as bad.

To the members of Likud whom he dubbed feinschmeckers (which may be interpreted as bleeding-hearts ), I propose not to get excited. The whole purpose of Judaism is to educate human beings to be bleeding hearts, and that is also the essence of the Torah whose "ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace."

When all was said and done, the American people rejected Senator McCarthy and sent him home in disgrace. If Lieberman persists in his way, that will also be his fate.