While it is well known perhaps to Israelis, few outside know that Avigdor Lieberman, whom Israel’s new prime minister is poised to name as foreign minister, plead guilty in 2001 to beating a child. I’d heard of this story but never read any news coverage about the event nor read a confirmation that Lieberman was actually convicted.
One of my readers challenged my claim that he was and another confirmed that he had been. But I still could find no reference in Google or the Haaretz English language site. So in the interest in filling that gap on the English web, I decided to write this post. Of course, an added important element is letting the world know that Israel’s likely next foreign minister is a convicted child beater.
The September 25, 2001 Haaretz reports (translated from Hebrew):
Lieberman acknowledged yesterday in the Jerusalem District Court that he attacked a 12 year old boy from the Tekoah settlement, who had hit his son. He was charged with assaulting and threatening him. Lieberman was convicted based on his own confession in the context of a plea bargain. His attorney asked the judges, in the context of the arrangement, to restrict his punishment to a fine [17,500 shekels] and the defendant’s promise that he will not commit such an act in the future.
The beating occured in December, 1999 at the Nokdim settlement. His son told him that three boys hit him. Lieberman located one of the boys in a trailer and hit him in the face. After the boy fell and was injured, the defendant grabbed him by the shirt-collar and arm, took him back to his parent’s home in Tekoa and threatened that he would attack him again if he returned to Nokdim.
Another article notes that the complainant received his head injury when he was thrown into a wall by Lieberman.
The article notes that one of the reasons the prosecutor accepted the plea bargain rather than pursue the matter to trial was that Lieberman’s actions were not “characteristic” of his normal behavior. I guess she momentarily forgot he’d been a nightclub bouncer in Moldova and ignored his threats of death leveled against Arab MKs semi-regularly.
Discerning minds will recall that Lieberman has already settled on who will be his number 2 at the foreign ministry: none other than his legal “fixer” in the child assault case, Dov Weisglass. The latter is best known for telling an Israeli newspaper, while he was Ariel Sharon’s political fixer, that the Gaza disengagement was like “formaldehyde” which would put the peace process with the Palestinians into a deep freeze. This Weisglass keeps coming back like a bad penny.
Another interesting incident from Lieberman’s recent past should prove relevant to his ability to do his job as foreign minister: while complaining that Hosni Mubarak refuses to visit Israel, he told the Knesset that the Egyptian president can “go to Hell for all I care.” Would you say we have a problem of a lack of diplomatic temperament here? Egypt is Israel’s most important interlocutor in all matters pertaining to the Palestinians. Having cursed that nation’s leader, how will Yevgeny be able to have any sort of working relationship with him?
A sign of the bankruptcy of Netanyahu’s political calculations in forming his new government is that this incident either didn’t enter into his considerations; or, if it did, he dismissed it. That tells you quite a bit about Netanyahu.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.