Eight years ago, when his twin careers as a politician and police suspect were both just beginning, Avigdor Lieberman quoted a conversation he had with Aryeh Deri of Shas, then a veteran of both arenas. "He told me that the number of [Knesset] seats rises with the number of [police] cases," the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman recalled.
On the eve of the 2009 elections, Lieberman is proof that his colleague was right. Yisrael Beiteinu often claims that the opposite is true: The police cases multiply as his political star rises. But yesterday's detention of Lieberman's daughter for questioning seems likely to give the party at least another seat.
Indeed, if you like conspiracy theories, you would have to suspect the police of working for Lieberman's campaign. Just look at the Russian-language Internet sites, where Lieberman has once again become the persecuted Russian immigrant, the representative of all such immigrants ever victimized by the police.
The bad news is that Lieberman has been trying to escape the "Russian" pigeonhole. But the good news is that veteran Israelis increasingly share the immigrants' negative views of the police. So overall, it's a net gain.
Polls in recent years have shown that between 65 percent and 87 percent of Russian immigrants have no confidence in the police and the courts. And the police have earned some of this hostility fairly: There have been cases where they treated immigrants arbitrarily or more stringently than veteran Israelis.
Nevertheless, Lieberman has proved a master at exploiting this hostility - for instance, by giving political backing to the Komitet group for the defense of immigrant rights, which helps immigrants who consider themselves victimized by the police.
"I'm aware of this situation," Chief Inspector Alex Kagelsky, the police's Russian-language spokesman, said yesterday. "This lack of faith in the police is something the immigrants bring with them, and it remains with them for generations. I feel that this is changing, but it takes time. We cannot let this consideration either hurt or help Lieberman."
That, however, may not convince many immigrants. Take MK Marina Solodkin of the rival Kadima party, who said that "this seems more political than criminal to me." She predicted the detention would give Lieberman another two seats.
"It's a pre-election gift" for Lieberman, another commentator summed up.
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