With Lieberman as Defense Minister, Israelis Should Head for the Bomb Shelters

The State of Israel in the hands of someone who could destroy it: a man who threatened to bomb the Aswan Dam and sees Israel's Arab citizens as the enemy.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Children in southern Israel seek shelter during a rocket alert siren.
Children in southern Israel seek shelter during a rocket alert siren. Credit: Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Something important happened on Wednesday; something that cannot be taken lightly for even a moment. The mere fact of offering Avigdor Lieberman the position of defense minister is the crossing of a red line that has never been crossed. The offer has no legitimacy because Lieberman has no legitimacy, even if he was elected democratically. For the first time in Israeli history, fascism is a clear and possibly present danger. True, Menachem Begin’s election as prime minister evoked similar fears, as did the appointment of Ariel Sharon as defense minister. But those were other times, when Israeli society still had immune mechanisms, a system of checks and balances. They were eliminated long ago. Now the state is in the hands of someone who could destroy it.

On Wednesday, a process that began nearly 40 years ago was completed. The right rules and Lieberman will soon be defense minister. If it weren’t so dangerous, it would be tempting to shout at the right, "We dare you." To shout at the center-left: "We dare you to to keep quiet." And to shout at the world: "Show them all." Will you keep arming and funding this Israel? Will you continue to view a state in which Lieberman is No. 2 in “the only democracy in the Middle East?"

More on the Netanyahu-Lieberman pact: Netanyahu using Lieberman to break Israel’s oldest elite / Anshel Pfeffer | To preserve his rule, Bibi willing to stomach his greatest political rival / Yossi Verter | Israelis will pay for Netanyahu's reckless appointment / Haaretz Editorial | Lieberman's first battle as defense minister will be against IDF / Amos Harel | What really happened between Netanyahu and Herzog? / Ari Shavit | Israel now torn between rule of law and rule of ruthless power / Ravit Hecht | How Blair and Sissi tried to push Zionist Union into Netanyahu's coalition / Barak Ravid

But the situation is too dangerous, my friends. Yes, Lieberman has a pack of court advisers, some of whom who even fancy themselves leftists, who explain that he’s a “serious man,” that he’s “a man of his word” and that he’s a pragmatist. But these statements have never been tested. Lieberman was never in a position to make decisions, and the test is too dangerous. And what if he’s not all those things? What if this cynical man discovers that carrying out his nationalist delusions and his racist remarks is his key to becoming prime minister?

Do we need reminders about who this is? His proposal to blow up the Aswan Dam. His saying that Egypt’s then-President Hosni Mubarak could “go to hell.” His inflammatory theory that Palestinian terror is part of global jihad. The man who called members of Breaking the Silence “mercenaries who sold their soul to Satan.” Who called activists in Yesh Gvul “kapos” and said Arab MKs should be tried as in Nuremberg. Need we mention his incitement? Then there is his recent declaration that Elor Azaria, who shot dead an incapicated Palestinian assailant, is a hero. Need we mention that his party is corrupt to the core, the criminal allegations that he avoided by the skin of his teeth only because the attorney general is feeble?

The man who made the Time Magazine 100 of influential world leaders in 2009 never really influenced things. Now, an opportunity has opened up before him and he is liable to exploit it. True, it could be that the wolf will become a sheep, that what you don’t see here what you see there, that his famous cynicism will lead him precisely to good places. However, there is another possibility, that Lieberman will be Lieberman. The Israel Defense Forces perhaps will try to stop for his sake, perhaps the Shin Bet, too.

If Lieberman will be Lieberman, we will miss Benjamin Netanyahu. If Lieberman will be Lieberman, the territories will burn like they’ve never burned before. If Lieberman will be Lieberman, all Israeli Arabs will become enemies. If Lieberman will be Lieberman, no one will be able to complain about Maj. Gen. Yair Golan’s comparison with dark times. They will be here and now. However, if Lieberman will be Lieberman, Golan will not be Golan and Israel will not be Israel. If Lieberman will be Lieberman, this op-ed would not even be published.

I was always for tearing off the masks off the face of Israel. On Wednesday, they were torn off finally. However, the price is liable to be too hard to bear. We should prepare the bomb shelters, for we are liable to need them soon.

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