Avigdor Lieberman’s fear for his political survival has reached an ugly climax. Clinging by his fingertips in an effort to save his corrupt Yisrael Beiteinu party from extinction, Lieberman has abandoned all restraint and morality. He is filling the political debate with violent, racist incitement.
During a marathon series of interviews with party leaders conducted by Channel 2 television on Saturday, Lieberman entered the studio immediately following the interview with Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List established by the Arab parties. Pointing at Odeh, he called him a “traitor” and a “liar.” In earlier interviews with party leaders on Channel 2, Lieberman called the Joint List chairman “a fifth column,” saying, “you’re a representative of terrorist organizations in the Knesset ... You intimidate children in the schools so they won’t do national service ... The only thing that unites you is hatred of Israel.”
That is how Israel’s foreign minister addresses the representative of 20 percent of the state’s population. Odeh was wise to refuse to respond to Lieberman’s contemptible performance.
It’s possible that Lieberman truly believes with all his heart in the racist merchandise he’s offering his voters, even though for the past few months he has zigzagged between a diplomatic agreement in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative, on one hand, and “transferring” Arab citizens of Israel and instituting the death penalty for terrorists on the other, depending on his electoral prospects and the progress of the criminal investigation into members of his party. Yet the fact that someone who has been a senior minister in most recent Israeli governments can’t boast of anything he has achieved or promise any hope to his electorate is shocking and regrettable.
It’s not surprising that Lieberman is acting the way he is. The foreign minister has proved throughout his political career that power and authority interest him much more than ideology, if he even has an ideology. Now, facing the threat of falling short of the electoral threshold, no statement or slogan is too contemptible as long as it ensures him a media presence, and perhaps also another few votes.
But Lieberman doesn’t represent Israel’s citizens, not even those who hold right-wing views. His attempts at intimidation, his frequent and cynical exploitation of bereavement, his unbridled anti-Arab incitement and the corruption that spreads everywhere he and his people go — all these are an insult to Israeli democracy.
Lieberman isn’t worthy of being a kingmaker, or even of playing any decisive role in the formation of any political bloc. And in a properly run state, he would have no place in the legislature at all.
Watch Lieberman's attack on Odeh on Channel 2 (Attention: Hebrew)
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