Text size
related tags

The truly shocking photo from Wednesday's drama of Avigdor Lieberman's acquittal showed the Yisrael Beiteinu leader and former cabinet minister standing in front of the stones of the Western Wall, wrapped in a tallit and holding a prayer book. (The NRG website raised doubts if he was even praying with it, as the siddur was open to the prayers for the Sabbath day).

A "religious discotheque," Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz called the Kotel, when he came out harshly against the flocking to the Western Wall after its capture in 1967. Leibowitz understood the danger lurking in the mixture of nationalism and religion, and in the production of political profit from the sanctification of stones. The cult of the Kotel is a pagan mark of shame on Jewish and Israeli culture, and regretfully it has turned into a mandatory station in the life of whoever wants to take over the Israeli consensus.

Prime ministers and others who want to become like them rush to have their pictures taken at the Kotel, wearing a kippa, touching the stones and closing their eyes so as not to be blinded by the power of the holiness. Even U.S. President Barack Obama, who came for a whirlwind visit, understood that in order to dispel local fears that he is a Muslim hater of Israel, he must go to the Wall and touch its stones.

With all due respect to the strengthening of religious devotion in the Lieberman family in recent years, it is hard not to be amazed at the cynicism of his actions and the sight of the naive media people trailing him. The leader of the party of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who in 1999 campaigned with jingles in Russian, and whose main message was the fight against the religious establishment that embittered the lives of his voters - understood a long time ago that the niche of the "Tiv Ta'am" party gained quite a lot of power for him in the political arena, but it was not capable of getting him to where he really wanted to be: The Prime Minister's Residence.

Thanks to his aggressiveness, nationalism and facade of the tough cop in the world's wildest precinct, Lieberman increased his power among the "Israeli" voters from one election campaign to the next, and he understood that to penetrate the final layer of the ruling power, he must enlist the religiously traditional public, including also the Mizrahim, and liberate himself from the image of the eater of pork and the promoter of "instant" conversions. This understanding brought Benjamin Netanyahu - who in his younger days seems to have found much greater interest in the teachings of Milton Friedman than in the Talmud's mentions of the Kotel - to the Prime Minister's Office in 1996, under the slogan "Netanyahu is good for the Jews," and which was supported later by his statement: "The left has forgotten what it is to be Jewish." There is no reason then that the prodigal son who turned on his creator will not pave his own way using the same trick. The recent alliance in Jerusalem with Aryeh Deri - a political demon in the eyes of Yisrael Beiteinu in its early days, and whose Shas party ran in the recent local elections an unrivaled racist and ugly campaign broadcast against the Russian aliyah - shows how far Lieberman is willing to go to be prime minister.

A cynical, utilitarian relationship between power, politics and religion characterizes failing societies with a thin but sophisticated ruling stratum, which manipulates the fiery masses. In such a society there is no real chance for democracy, rule of law or liberal values, which include freedom of worship and freedom of belief. This is the true problem of the State of Israel, and it does not begin or end with Lieberman.