Lieberman Can Feel at Home at the Kremlin

Russian officials see Lieberman as one of their own: His worldview and value system are the same as Putin's.

A year and a half ago Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met in Moscow with President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The talks, which were very optimistic, went on in Russian, and among other things sharply criticized the United States. For that reason, they stirred a great deal of interest at American Embassy in Moscow. According to WikiLeaks, the acting deputy chief of mission, Alice Wells, sent a secret cable to Washington on June 2, 2009, stating that the senior Russian government officials view Lieberman as one of their own.

It is not difficult to imagine what would have happened in Israel if it were discovered that the Russians, the Chinese, or the French saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak or former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as one of their own. But the WikiLeaks revelation made no impression here. No main headlines, no further journalistic investigation, no editorials. Just as we knew nothing about the Eastern European life of the foreign minister before WikiLeaks, we know nothing about it today, either. The strong man of Israeli politics was and remains a mystery.

lieberman - AP - November 8 2010

WikiLeaks is not alone. In very private conversations, in very low whispers, many senior Israeli officials express concern over Lieberman. One senior official says he has no idea who Yvet is. Another says that even after years of working with him, he has no idea what makes Yvet tick, what his considerations are and with whom he works. A third says that nothing would surprise him about Yvet. But none of these men share their concerns with the public.

No mainstream leader of the Israeli center is warning against Lieberman. Netanyahu is afraid of him. MK Tzipi Livni is counting on him. Barak is keeping mum. Strangely, Israeli politics is working for the strangest foreign minister who has ever served here.

Lieberman really can feel like one of their own at the Kremlin. His worldview is Putin's worldview. His value system is Putin's value system. Lieberman is as democratic as Putin, as enlightened as Putin and as delicate as Putin. They differ only in one way: seriousness. Putin, in his own way, is a serious leader. He served his homeland, he strengthened it and made it an international power again. In contrast, Lieberman is not a serious figure. He sabotages his homeland, weakens it and turns it into an international laughingstock. Lieberman is not Putin, but rather a caricature of the man. Clearheadedly and cynically, he harms Israel's most essential interests. Lieberman's public image is that of an arch-patriot. But the truth is that Lieberman is no patriot. If he were, he would not undermine the government, cleave society and endanger the alliance with the United Sates. If he were a patriot, he would not stir up conflict at home and deepen isolation abroad. If he were a patriot, he would not turn the state and the government, to which he has pledged his loyalty, into a dishrag. Without loyalty there is no leadership, as we know. But Lieberman is trying to build leadership though express lack of loyalty toward the country he is supposed to be serving.

If Lieberman had been a minister in Putin's cabinet, he would have long ago been relieved of his duties. If the Russian foreign minister had humiliated Russia the way our foreign minister humiliates Israel, he would have already been sent into exile.

Serious countries like Russia do not let people who are not serious, like Lieberman, cause them serious damage. But Israel is not a serious country, and so Netanyahu does not dismiss Lieberman, Livni does not boycott him and Barak is silent. The entire national leadership has come to terms with the Lieberman phenomenon and has made it a real threat.

Will Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein lift the threat? Perhaps. But if he does not submit an indictment in the Lieberman affair, Yvet's road to power will be open. First, he will swallow Netanyahu, then he will pulverize Livni. Later, he will become prime minister. Under Lieberman's leadership and Putin's inspiration, Israel will indeed become another country. A country of their own.