Akiva Eldar writes (in Hebrew, and a related English story) about Avigdor Lieberman’s annoying tendency to whitewash some of the most anti-democratic world leaders including lately Ukraine’s Victor Yanukovitch and Vladimir Putin. After meeting personally with the Russian leader in the Kremlin on one of the regular visits, the Israeli foreign minister fawned that the recent legislative elections were free, fair and honest. Most Russians would beg to differ and came out in their tens of thousands today to protest and state precisely the opposite opinion.
Eldar associates the accusation against Lieberman of “whitewashing” suspect leaders with the major charge filed against him in a long-running criminal probe, which is money laundering (or halbanat hon in Hebrew, “whitening wealth”). He notes that the leader of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu met a few weeks ago with Ukraine’s premier. who’d just sent the opposition leader, Yulia Timoshenko to prison on trumped-up charges. Then he praised those Russian elections about which most Russians are not stewing in anger at their patently fraudulent character.
With his most recent foray into election monitoring, Eldar argues that Lieberman may’ve shot himself in the foot, if not the head. The fulsome praise of the gangster like efforts of United Russia to save its political ass reminds the Haaretz columnist of similar statements of praise and encouragement offered by Israelis and other out of touch world leaders for Hosni Mubarak before he was toppled by Egyptian people power.
Not to mention that the foreign minister’s apparently independent foreign policy (Israel itself has made no comment on the Russian elections) is in diametric conflict with statements by Hillary Clinton, who said those same elections should be investigated as potentially fraudulent. Given that the U.S. ambassador Dan Shapiro recently made one of those required bromide type pronouncements that coördination between Israel and the U.S. have never been better–one has to ask whether he was including Lieberman in that statement.
Eldar reminds readers that this is the same Israeli leader who was rebuffed by the U.S. administration when he attempted to compare the new bill sponsored by his party to criminalize foreign state funding for Israeli NGOs to the U.S. Foreign Agents Act, which requires Americans paid and acting on behalf of a foreign power to register as a lobbyist.
Lieberman, who is persona non grata in most western countries, and who has been excluded from a number of critical foreign policy areas in which Israelis foreign ministers have historically been involved, has only the Russian speaking world as his sandbox. It’s an awfully small sphere of influence of limited benefit to Israeli interests. Russo-Israeli media, usually quite friendly to Lieberman, called his embrace of Putin a “national disgrace.” Another Russian media outlet called Lieberman’s party:
The Israeli chapter of Party of Thieves and Swindler, a name coined for Putin’s ruling party.
I’ve written a number of posts which recount official Israeli suspicions that Lieberman’s connections to Russia are not entirely transparent. Some have even accused him of being an agent of Russian influence. Therefore, it should not be surprising that he would whitewash Putin’s reputation and that of his party.
Eldar closes his column by wondering out loud why Israel’s attorney general has tarried in producing an indictment against Lieberman, who has exploited the delay by publicly embarrassing (in Hebrew he again uses the term halbanah related to “whitewashing”) an entire nation.