Take a good look at the tone of the public debate over the attorney general's decision to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: a mix of appreciation, admiration and groveling. We hear about the "composed" Lieberman, Yvet "the man," the "enigmatic" foreign minister. Lieberman is esteemed even by his opponents. There will always be someone to tell you that this is a "serious man" who behind closed doors is impressive and even moderate, that we are dealing with an unusual, unpredictable politician. Utter nonsense.
Forget the suspicions against him, forget that he has been convicted of assaulting a child; we're dealing here with a mediocre, destructive politician who has a very meager record after 20 years of work. It's true he has translated hate-mongering into electoral success, riding the murkiest of waves. It's true he has sullied Israeli public discourse. It's even true he terrifies the prime minister and is notorious throughout the world. But the real balance of his work is much less impressive than the image built up for him by his supporters and especially by his opponents. The man isn't a man, the enigma's no enigma.
Like certain leaders of Israeli crime families whose image we also cherish and whose power we also boost, we do not ostracize Lieberman at all. In fact, after the attorney general's decision, Lieberman has become the subject of admiration. Whatever for? After all, he is surely Israel's worst foreign minister ever. The country's international standing has slumped to an all-time low on his watch. His diplomatic activity has brought down our relationship with Turkey and worsened Latin America's stance on Israel. Isn't that plenty of damage for two years?
So what's all that appreciation for? For "my promise is a promise"? What promise? Almost nothing has been realized of his election promises. He has been completely useless to his electorate: There is still no civil marriage in Israel, and the civil-union bill ended up as a leftover law, relevant only to a handful of people without religion. He wanted to bring down Hamas, and even insisted on adding a clause on this to the coalition agreement. Two years later, Hamas is stronger than ever, certainly stronger than Lieberman. Some of the dangerous anti-democratic bills he has flaunted have thankfully failed - the investigation of leftist NGOs, for instance.
So where is that promise of his? His actual involvement in foreign policy is small, his trips abroad are fruitless for the most part, his suggestions for territorial exchanges with the Palestinians have been shelved, like so many other proposals of his.
Even sophistication, another quality attributed to him, is hard to find. Registering a company making millions to one's daughter? Please. Composure? There is none. Courage? When did he last go against the flow, when did he fight for anything? He can only ride populist waves, incite and foment the passions of the weak against the even weaker. You don't need courage for that. He's an inarticulate politician who has never made an impressive speech, who does not have one achievement to his name, yet all his terms as a minister are seen here as a success story.
Because this is how we like our politicians: belligerent thugs, the "strongmen" we want so much, as the polls show. This says something about us all, much more than it does about Lieberman. The foreign minister is the stuff of our deepest dreams. He says what most of us think. He lets the world "have it" and "screws" the Arabs, as we want to. He even knows how to "make millions," as many of us dream to. That's why we cherish the myth, that's why we'll always have such high regard for him - because Lieberman is us and we are Lieberman.
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