The political rise of Avigdor Lieberman to the standing of a national leader reached its peak in the 2009 Knesset election. About half of his 400,000 voters were not "Russians." It was the Olmert government's killing spree, "Operation Cast Lead," that raised the level of bloodshed to a horrific height. The military assault, backed by the media's admiration, wiped out the opposition and enhanced the power of the flacks. Lieberman became the advocate for "more blood," and he prevailed.
With his sharp intelligence, he was also at times able to win over the heart of the moderate camp, which, in its middle-class political lethargy, always hopes for a "deus ex machina": the United States, Europe or an "Israeli de Gaulle." Lieberman marketed himself as someone who could be "moderate," if he so wished. Years ago, when the left still existed in this country, he told Haaretz: "I don't want [East Jerusalem's] Jabal Mukkaber and Walaja. Let Abu Mazen pay their social security benefits." (Sept. 2, 2005). Like a landlord who evicts tenants whenever he feels like it.
The interviewer, Lily Galili, concluded: "The demographic issue is alive here, too, inside the Green Line. ... This is exactly what Lieberman is counting on when he presents his plan for a swap of territory and population, whose main feature is the relocation of hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens of Israel to a Palestinian state. Some of them, such as in the Umm al-Fahm area, will be transferred with their land; some - without it." There are all sorts of agendas that Lieberman has appropriated for himself as plunder of sorts from what remains of political society. Their common denominator? Incitement of a divided population that unites against "the enemy," external or internal. He didn't invent this.
One of the dangers of such leaders lies in the way they switch back and forth between agitation and persuasion. This, if you wish, is the ultimate in the politics of the leader, one who creates a party and determines its agenda in consultation with a top PR man. Yair Lapid - less crude, more "one of us" - embodies the same threat: No party setting the agenda. The leader hires and fires from the party at will, satisfying the Israeli lust for a strong leader who will "make order" once and for all.
And yet the panic over Lieberman's acquittal can teach us something about what remains of the left. One representative declared on Facebook, with the emotion of a cantor on Tisha B'Av: "Exactly 18 years ago an envoy of the extreme nationalist right wing managed to assassinate a prime minister. Today we have closed a circle. The transition from the country of Rabin to the country of Yvet Lieberman is complete." This narcissistic stupidity wouldn't be worth quoting if it weren't symptomatic: More serious spokesmen of the left also went overboard on panic. In this opposition they're not looking for a strong leader; nearly the opposite. They want the leader thrown out, once and for all. In elections? No. In day-to-day battles for the street? No. In court. Because the court, like justice, is "one of us." And if the court acquits? Then we'll have the last word on Facebook.
Soon 2013 will be over: The settlements are expanding to the point of historic catastrophe; the army is shooting again - at teenagers, too; the jails are filled with Palestinian prisoners; meanwhile, Israeli capitalism is drowning the silent majority in poverty. And leftists? They sit in front of the computer and the TV, desperately expecting the court to do their work by banishing Lieberman over breach of trust. It's worth reading Shelly Yacimovich's reaction to understand the absurdity here. She, who refused to speak about the Palestinian issue during the election campaign because the question should be "deferred," set the tone of panicked gloom after the court's acquittal. (For the sake of balance, the intelligent political statement of Merav Michaeli should be noted.)
The expectation that the court will dispatch a political adversary is once again the expectation that someone will do your political work, with all the implications this holds for democracy and the courts' independence. This laziness of the shrinking liberal stratum is as worrisome as the right's lust for a strongman.