ANALYSIS / Lieberman Is Just One Time Bomb at Netanyahu's Doorstep

PM looks out to potential return of Aryeh Deri, the estranged Shas leader, and to split in Labor.

Avigdor Lieberman devoted huge efforts in his campaign and that of his Yisrael Beiteinu party to gain control of legal and law enforcement agencies on the eve of the establishment of the current government. He demanded the Justice Ministry, the Public Security Ministry, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and the Judicial Selection Committee. He demanded everything. He wanted that, and that and that. He demanded control - "nash kontrol" (our control) as they say in Russian - and he got it.

But at the moment of truth, he found himself alone in the face of a police recommendation that serious charges be filed against him. His man at the Public Security Ministry, Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, did not prevent this and apparently didn't try. At the next moment of truth, if the attorney general decides to adopt the police recommendation, he will not ask for the approval of Yaakov Neeman, the justice minister.

Count on Lieberman. He knew this. He didn't expect his appointments would extricate him from the hole. He was simply itching to poke his finger in the face of the law enforcement system - an act of spite - because he knew what was waiting for him down the road. As former prime minister Ariel Sharon said, referring to Lieberman by his Russian name, "Yvet wanted to enjoy himself, not win."

It's impossible to decipher Lieberman. He is indecipherable. Today he is in the cabinet, tomorrow he is out, and the day after he is in the Foreign Ministry. As far as can be determined, if an indictment is filed against him he will resign from the cabinet, as is required, but will not drag his party out with him. He will try to get a quick trial, in the hope that he will emerge innocent and return to the cabinet as the victor, as super-victim and a magnet for attracting seats in the next Knesset elections. He won't let Netanyahu trade the foreign ministry portfolio and give it to Shaul Mofaz or Silvan Shalom. From Lieberman's standpoint, Netanyahu should take the portfolio himself or give Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon the position of temporary foreign minister.

In any event, an indictment against the chairman of the second largest party in the coalition is a shock. Netanyahu has been concerned about this from the day he was elected. The prime minister is apparently secure in his seat after passing a two-year budget and assuring himself a Knesset majority on the reform of the Israel Lands Administration and the Mofaz bill.

But there are three time bombs at Netanyahu's doorstep, and any of them hold the potential to hurt the three partners in the coalition. The first is the Lieberman affair. The second is Aryeh Deri, whose waiting period after his criminal conviction, ending whenever it does, threatens the Shas party's unity. And the third is the looming danger of a split within the Labor Party.

Which bomb will explode first? Who knows. But when you look at the political mine field, and those are only the visible mines, who knows what the future has in store for us?

It's clear why Netanyahu is ready to commit suicide over a bill which is so disturbing from a constitutional and moral standpoint as the so-called Mofaz bill. He wants to keep an insurance policy in the drawer for any eventuality. For the chance that Lieberman will pull his party out of the coalition, or that Shas would split up, or that the Labor Party would slip through his fingers.

True, Netanyahu also wants that, and that and that. With his luck, in the end he will discover that actually Kadima, which remained in opposition, is the most stable and solid political player around, while his partners limp from crisis to crisis.