Lieberman Is a Grotesque Version of Putin

In the past decade, Lieberman has caused the collapse of Israeli democracy's immune system. If we don't stand up to him now, we won't remain standing.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On was mistaken when she compared Russian President Vladimir Putin and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. Putin is an aggressive president who in his own way reunified a disintegrating state and turned it into a world power. Lieberman is an unsuccessful foreign minister who is partly boycotted in the United States and Europe and responsible for the fact that Israel is seen in the West as a country that has lost its humanity.

Putin is a Russian nationalist who acts belligerently in an attempt to regain Russia's power and might. Lieberman is an Israeli cynic who acts provocatively not to serve his homeland's national interest but to serve his own political interests. A promise is a promise? While Putin is a man who takes action, for Lieberman a promise is just a promise; behind it lie personal motives that have not been deciphered.

Thus the only thing in common between the serious but dangerous man from the Kremlin and the unserious but dangerous man from Nokdim is that they both lack faith in the democratic system and the world of democratic concepts. Neither Putin nor Lieberman is committed to minority rights, human rights or the rule of law. Neither Putin nor Lieberman bows his head to the independence of the judiciary or the principle of the separation of powers.

Both Putin and Lieberman prefer parliament members who are appointed and dependent on favors rather than parliament members who are elected and loyal to their voters. Both the Russian Vladimir and the Israeli Avigdor prefer the supreme value of power to the supreme values of liberty, brotherhood and equality.

Some say the criticism of Lieberman is tainted with anti-Russian racism. Nonsense. The Russian immigration was an amazing immigration that enriched Israel in every sense. But the immigrants from Russia sought to escape a tyrannical political culture and not replicate it. The immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States sought freedom as in America, not tyranny as in Belarus. It was not by chance that when Lieberman tried to ingratiate himself with Putin at the beginning of the year, he aroused animosity in Israel's Russian-speaking community. The values he expressed were his own, not those of the impressive community he has pretensions of representing.

There is no doubt Lieberman is a political genius, this head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Israel Our Home. Only a political genius is capable of ridiculing an entire country and juggling hatred for the Arabs and hatred for the ultra-Orthodox in order to ruin our Israeli home while building his own. Only a political genius can create a situation where the right's opponents believe he's the man to topple the right, while he's constantly bolstering the right, making it more extreme. Only a political genius can create a situation where (the hostage ) Benjamin Netanyahu, (the good friend ) Haim Ramon and (the ally ) Aryeh Deri wouldn't dare do anything against him.

But this political genius has never once harnessed his ingenuity for Israel's good. Did he change the system of government? Did he contribute to the economy? Did he thwart the strategic threat he was supposed to deal with? No, no and no.

Lieberman has always weakened us and empowered himself. So Gal-On made a mistake, but she was also dead right. The courageous things she said about Putin's grotesqueries are the most patriotic things said here this week. While Netanyahu has become Lieberman's vassal, and while center politicians have come begging at Lieberman's door, only the leader of the Zionist left has said what had to be said about this destructive man taking over our lives.

In the past decade, Lieberman has caused the collapse of Israeli democracy's immune system. If we don't stand up to him now, we won't remain standing.



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