Today is a day I had hoped wouldn’t arrive. Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party have not only entered the ruling coalition, Lieberman has become deputy prime minister and been charged with coordinating Israel’s response to the Iranian threat. As I’ve written here before, it would be as if Pat Buchanan or David Duke started their own political party, won 40 seats in the House, & were named a cabinet secretary with oversight of U.S. policy toward Iran. Wouldn’t it make you a tad nervous?
What’s so bad about Lieberman? Well, for one, as Akiva Eldar writes today in Haaretz, Lieberman suggested any Arab legislator who was “disloyal” to Israel should be stood up “in front of a firing squad.” He also advocates slicing off territory which includes 90% of the Israeli Arab population of Israel and handing it over to a Palestinian state. This is essentially a slightly more sophisticated version of an Israeli rightist wet dream–population transfer. In return for the generous allotment of the Israeli population being bestowed on Palestine, the West Bank territory on which the majority of current settlers live would be permanently annexed to Israel.
To quote the song: “Nice work if you can get.” But Lieberman couldn’t get it if he tried. In other words, Israel’s Arab citizens want no part of this “out there” plan. They’d be dragged screaming and kicking out of Israel. How do you do a presto-chango, snap your fingers and say that 90% of a nation’s largest minority group will simply disappear without the minority having any say in the matter. Do not Israeli Arabs, citizens of the State, have a right to determine their own future? Or is there a two tier citizenship model at play here?
Gershom Gorenberg has written in The Forward about Lieberman as brutal in his personal relations and corrupt in his business dealings. The man is seriously ethically-challenged though this appears to be true of most of Israel’s most powerful politicians these days.
To my delight and disappointment, one Labor cabinet minister objected so strenuously that he resigned his position, Culture and Sports minister, Ophir Pines-Paz. At least he has a conscience. The rest of the Labor party has mortgaged their morality by swallowing hard and voting Aye for Lieberman. It is a low point in a party whose history has seen more than its share of previous nadirs.
Oh and don’t get the impression that this love affair between Lieberman and Olmert is a marriage for the ages. In addressing a question from a minister regarding how he expects Lieberman to accept Israeli withdrawal from West Bank settlements (since this coalition policy is anathema to Lieberman), Olmert responded: when we get to that point then Lieberman can leave. It’s the height of cynicism to anticipate a divorce even before you’ve consummated the marriage. But this is Israeli politics and this is one of its most cynical purveyors, Ehud Olmert.
I would call upon the EU to weigh its relations with Israel’s governing coalition. Europe essentially severed its ties with Austria over Jorg Haider’s party entering that nation’s governing coalition. If Jean Marie Le Pen were to enter the French cabinet, I expect there would be serious voices demanding the same treatment for France. Akiva Eldar has argued that Lieberman’s policies are far more radical than Haider’s since the latter never advocated the forced removal of Austrian citizens from that country. Why shouldn’t the EU treat a Lieberman government the same way it treated Haider’s?