Two professors from Harvard and MIT have started a petition calling on the Israeli parties negotiating over the new governing coalition to shun Avigdor Lieberman and his party:
Binyamin Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni may soon be in a position to assemble a parliamentary coalition that can govern as a majority. Both are considering partnering with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Israel Beiteinu party. As friends of Israel and supporters of Israeli democracy, we say: Don’t do it!
…Lieberman threatens Israeli society with the darkness of race-baiting, demagoguery and ultra-nationalism. We respect the right of Israeli citizens to elect their own political leaders. Yet as supporters of a democratic state, we cannot remain silent at this crucial time. We remember too well how democracies in the 20th century were brought down by anti-democratic leaders who came to power through popular elections.
Granting Mr. Lieberman a senior ministerial post would endanger the foundations of Israel as a democratic state and delegitimize it in the eyes of the world. Such a government would be one that even Israel’s friends would find increasingly difficult — if not impossible — to identify with or support.
Please sign the petition, and forward this post to friends, colleagues and others who might sign it. We must unite as a Jewish Diaspora to tell our Israeli brothers and sisters that this is not the way.
The petition organizers plan to promote this statement in the Israeli media in order to have an impact on coalition negotiations. Therefore, it’s imperative to sign now.
Ynet has written about the petition campaign. As I read the story I was thinking: “Why are two professors organizing such a statement when the American Jewish leadership should be the ones conveying such a message to Israel?” The fact that the Israel lobby groups have abdicated their responsibilities in this situation is shameful. Are they willing to sit back and see Bibi appoint Lieberman defense or foreign minister? Are they willing to see an Israeli government advocate a loyalty oath for Israeli Arabs? Are they willing to accept a truncated Israeli democracy as envisioned by Lieberman? If not, then why aren’t they doing anything?
In 2007, Gershom Gorenberg wrote this incisive profile of Lieberman for The Atlantic. I especially liked this knowing reference to Chekhov, which also alludes to the incendiary impact of Lieberman on Israeli politics:
Avigdor Lieberman is an oversized man in an undersized room. His beard, remorselessly trimmed to a narrow, graying stripe around his cheeks, frames a wide face with pale, icy eyes. As he speaks, he waves his tiger paw of a hand, holding a cigar the proportions of a small cannon. The cigar is not lit, but the laws of drama say it will be by the third act.