Why Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Took a Sharp Turn to the Left

In addition to forgiveness from the legal establishment, 'Sharonization' also grants political amnesty, both domestic and international.

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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Israel Harel
Israel Harel

As the United States is forcing Israel to return to the 1967 lines, it transpires that most of the ministers, including the negotiators, have lost the ideological backbone that determines the boundaries of the permissible.

In its exaggerated concessions to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during his journeys to promote his candidacy as the Democratic presidential candidate, the government is about to cross the red lines set throughout the years by Likud, Yisrael Ba’aliya and the National Religious Party- Habayit Hayehudi – and even Labor when it was the Alignment. In the final analysis, there will be no “[Shimon] Peres will divide Jerusalem”; it is liable to be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the man who, by repeatedly stating that slogan, overcame his rival in the 1996 election.

The latest to join the camp willing to hand over – or perhaps abandon – our fate to strangers is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The man who was seen as the extreme-right factor in the coalition is changing his spots and adopting the Kerry outline. The declared rationale is: “There won’t be a better offer.” In other words, it is not the responsibility of Lieberman and his colleagues, in their roles as ministers in the Israeli government, to decide on the final borders that will incorporate the long-term historical goals of the Jewish people in its homeland. No. Others make offers, as in a tender, as to where the borders will be placed, what the security arrangements will be and where Jews will be allowed to pray. And Lieberman – or the government – will accept the offer that is least bad.

Even this government, it turns out, has adopted the consensus in the international political sphere – to the effect that the land on which we reside belongs, from the outset, to the entire world. Therefore, the world – and not the Jewish people – will decide where the borders of Jewish-Israeli sovereignty will be located. And countries, think tanks, academic institutions, politicians aspiring to accumulate political capital and various pretenders to peace are engaged in outlining them. First among them, of course, are the dozens of Israeli organizations controlled by foreign entities – and money – competing among themselves over who will submit a plan with the maximum erosion of the remaining area of the Jewish homeland.

Nobody in the foreign minister’s Yisrael Beiteinu party – including dyed-in-the-wool (and genuine) right-wingers such as Yair Shamir, Uzi Landau and David Rotem – dares to wonder out loud about the explanation for the sharp leftward turn of their leader – i.e. their party, since everything there is decided according to Lieberman’s word. After all, he somehow overcame his legal entanglements and is no longer in need, like former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his day, of the embraces and exaggerated forgiveness of the media, as a price for abandoning his life path and adopting the political correctness of the legal system.

But Lieberman, like his predecessors, still needs all these, even when all his legal woes are ostensibly over. In addition to forgiveness from the legal establishment, “Sharonization” also grants political amnesty, both domestic and international. A sharp turn to the left pays off much more. Ask former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. And where would President Shimon Peres be today had he not abandoned the Greater Israel camp?

And Sharon? The moment it was clear he was determined to carry out the so-called disengagement – in other words, the plan to escape being prosecuted in the Greek island affair and his other financial entanglements – he was coddled and embraced. Overnight, he became an admired statesman instead of a potential hazard.

Lieberman aspires to be prime minister. Without the support of the media and the other important power bases in the country – and outside as well – he will never achieve the desired position, even if he captures Likud. That’s the motive.

This week’s haftarah reading from the Books of the Prophets (accompanying the Torah portion “Beshalah”) is the “Song of Deborah”: “My heart is toward the governors of Israel,” sang the leader-poet. The words arouse longing for leaders like her and Barak Ben Avinoam.

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