Avigdor Lieberman, National Whitewasher

Experience teaches us that there is no reason to believe that Netanyahu will speak out against the damage Lieberman has done to whatever is left of Israel’s good name in the world.

Approximately eight months ago, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced that he had decided to serve Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman with an indictment. The first accusation had to do with money laundering. Since then, Lieberman has spent his time whitewashing certain dubious leaders. And when he is not introducing bills against left-wing NGOs and the Supreme Court, or bashing the media, the Yisrael Beiteinu leader devotes himself to making Israel look bad overseas.

A few weeks ago he got chummy with the knight of human rights, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who sent Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to prison. This week, the leader of the third largest party in Israel stood by Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin, who is competing with his Syrian friend, Bashar Assad, in the field of humanism and love of mankind.

lieberman - Emil Salman - June 17 2011
Emil Salman

Perhaps this time, while he is shooting in all directions, Lieberman will shoot himself in the foot, if not his own head. The rigged Russian elections, which took place under the banner of “fair, equal and democratic”, are reminiscent of the cries of support for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during the Tahrir Square protests earlier this year. If Lieberman was a member of some negligible faction belonging to the opposition, the Prime Minister would be able to shake him off. But Lieberman holds positions of utmost importance: deputy prime minister, and foreign minister.

Yesterday, American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro could not stop praising the wonderful coordination between the two countries. How will he explain the rift between Lieberman’s praise for Putin, and the fact that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded an full-scale investigation of the elections in Russia.

How will the ambassador explain the contradictions between Lieberman’s words and those of Heidi Tagliavini, the head of a team directly responsible for monitoring the elections, who claimed that the elections were rife with “open manipulations” and frequent violations of election regulations?

Will the ambassador state that Fania Kirshenbaum’s testimony is more trustworthy? It is fascinating to see just how far Lieberman will go in his support of the Russian regime, which is becoming more and more like the Soviet regime. Will Netanyahu maintain his silence, even as Lieberman defends the violent suppression of protests in Moscow which opposed turning Russian democracy into a sad joke?

Experience teaches us that there is no reason to believe that Netanyahu and his friends in the government will speak out against the damage Lieberman has done to whatever is left of Israel’s good name in the world. Lieberman took himself out of the negotiations with the Palestinians (aside from an attempt to destroy the Palestinian Authority), and was resigned to give up on his position of power on the Israel-U.S. axis. Europe got tired of him. Turkey and Arab countries boycott him. What is left? Russia and the rest of the Russian-speaking countries. And what is the high point of Lieberman’s accomplishment in that arena? Russia’s decision to sell long-range missiles to Syria, despite Israel’s opposition, Russian support for recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN and a Quartet veto on the proposal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

There are signs that this Lieberman, who is considered a seasoned politician, and who is known to tug on the sensitive strings of the Russian-speaking population in Israel, was not able to accurately read their feelings. The Russian media – which is does not regularly criticize Lieberman – strayed from the norm yesterday. During the Channel 9 main news segment, a news anchor quoted Putin’s claim that the United States is interfering in internal Russian politics, and added that “Mubarak, Gadhafi and Assad said the same thing the moment people went out into the streets.”

The segment’s producer called Lieberman’s praise of the elections a “false and vile lie”, and added that “it is unclear why the Ministry of Interior has not yet responded to such outrageous claims”. On the channel’s website, Lieberman was nicknamed “the national disgrace”, and RTVI – a Russian channel which broadcasts from Israel – called Yisrael Beiteinu an “Israeli branch of the party of thieves and swindlers” (the nickname given to Putin’s party in Russia).

This past week, Weinstein stood firmly against Lieberman, and blocked his Bolshevik-style NGO bill. It is difficult to understand why the attorney general is postponing his decision regarding the aforementioned indictment, and allowing Lieberman to whitewash the face of an entire country.