Lieberman's Strategic Threat

The farcical circumstances surrounding the appointment of the social affairs minister could have dragged on for another 10 months. However, the minute Avigdor Lieberman gave Olmert the ultimatum to settle things by Sunday or else, it was clear the game would indeed be over by Sunday.

Because when Avigdor puts a gun on the table, it's serious. This is not Amir Peretz threatening, or not even Yoram Marciano. This is a clear and present danger to the survival of the coalition. It is no coincidence that Lieberman is the minister in charge of strategic threats.

And like all other crises, Labor comes out the worse for it. It may have won an extra portfolio, but only after it embarrassed itself in nasty scuffle over who would be minister, and by hazing one of its favorite sons, Isaac Herzog, a trauma that must have scarred his soul. Peretz and Marciano had marked him as the weakest link among the ministers, and he did not survive the pressure.

The final nail in the coffin came in the TV satire "Wonderful Country" a week ago: One of the members of the cast showed him taking orders from Bar Rafaeli, a model who participated in one of the public relations campaigns that Herzog initiated as tourism minister.

Peretz issued a statement last night that sounded very much like a "Wonderful Country" skit. According to Peretz, Herzog's appointment as social affairs minister "is a day of celebration for the weak, the elderly and the single mothers." Indeed, in the poor neighborhoods there were expressions of joy yesterday and a day of festivities was organized.

One must admit, however, that Herzog is one of the effective ministers in the government, and despite his feeble appearence, he is quite a bulldozer. A mini-bulldozer: hard working, stubborn, sensitive. He will give up his international tourism exhibitions, business class and scent of models for what was described on a different occasion as "the armpit" of Israeli society. The society of the poor, the needy, those suffering from continuous injustices and shortages.

After a year in power, Olmert has completed a reshuffle of his cabinet that pleased all coalition partners. Yisrael Beiteinu came out with sizable bounty: the Tourism Ministry and the Knesset Finance Committee chair. These bolster the Olmert-Lieberman strategic partnership against the looming Netanyahu-Gaydamak threat.