Baruch Leshem
Baruch Leshem
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman

For Liberman, a 'word' is just an element of speech

Opinion: The finance minister is set to be responsible for the most comprehensive budget overhaul, devoting billions to the Arab sector after, ironically, getting into Knesset by challenging some Arabs' right to citizenship

Baruch Leshem |
Published: 10.15.21, 19:35
Yisrael Beytenu leader and current Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman had always attached an ideological catchphrase to every election campaign he waged in the past 15 years.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • The late American political strategist, Arthur Finkelstein, who assisted Liberman's run for parliament in 2009, forged his infamous slogan: "Without loyalty, there is no citizenship". It was directed at the Israeli Arab community. Liberman's party won 15 Knesset seats that year - the party's greatest achievement to date.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    אביגדור ליברמן
    אביגדור ליברמן
    Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman
    (Photo: Zvika Tishler)
    When his party joined forces with Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud to run in the 2013 elections, that political alliance's main campaign promises were blocking Iran's nuclear ambitions, preserving Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel and building more West Bank settlements.
    In August 2014, after dissolving his alliance with Likud, Liberman began courting centrist voters and announced that "the Saudi peace initiative is more relevant than ever," and must be the basis of any future agreement with the Gulf kingdom, even though the initiative calls for Israel's withdrawal from most of the West Bank.
    The Saudi Peace initiative was a plan brought forth by Abdullah ibn Abd al-Aziz al-Sa'ud, future emir of Saudi Arabia, in 2002 and was meant to broker a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab nations.
    It calls for an implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 - full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967 - and the land-for-peace principle. It also demands Israel's acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
    Ahead of the 2015 election cycle, Liberman went back to the political Right and called for the death penalty for terrorists in his main campaign slogan.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Yisrael Beiteinu 2015 election poster calling for the death penalty for terrorists
    Yisrael Beiteinu 2015 election poster calling for the death penalty for terrorists
    Yisrael Beytenu 2015 election poster calling for the death penalty for terrorists
    (Photo: Yisrael Beytenu Facebook )
    An observer who asked the Yisrael Beytenu leader about the apparent political U-turn, was told by Liberman that when he speaks at political conferences about regional peace, the crowd is unresponsive but when he calls for the death penalty for terrorists, he receives a standing ovation.
    As a politician who repeatedly claimed he is true to his words, Liberman has consistently shown his "word" is just an element of speech, while his political views bend according to the views of his constituents.
    As Israel was headed towards its fourth election cycle in two years in December 2020, Liberman announced that his goal was to serve as finance minister.
    "Under the current circumstances," he said referring to the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the economy, "the most important position - more than that of prime minister, will be finance minister, who will be tasked with rebuilding the country's economy".
    His views aside, Liberman's political savvy is unquestionable. He is the graduate of the best school of politics in Israel, having served as Director General of the Prime Minister's Office under Netanyahu, and is well qualified to gage the changing views of the public.
    He recognized the economic crisis as the primary concern for Israelis in the coming years and ensured his new position in order to respond to those concerns.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    הפגנת העצמאיים בחולון נגד הסגר והמשבר הכלכלי בעקבות הקורונה
    הפגנת העצמאיים בחולון נגד הסגר והמשבר הכלכלי בעקבות הקורונה
    Small business owners protest economic crisis during the coronavirus pandemic
    (Photo: Yariv Katz)
    Following the March 23 elections, Liberman indeed was named finance minister in the new cabinet and has since distanced himself from ideological arguments. The ideolog has now transformed to a professional minister.
    While Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah to discuss security, while Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced his intention to promote the two-state solution, and while Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked vowed there would never be a Palestinian state, Liberman remained silent, speaking publicly only on matters pertaining to his ministry.
    This strategy, thus far, has not yielded an increase in potential votes. According to a recent poll published by Channel 12 news, Liberman is among the least popular members of the government, with just 35% support, while 50% of those asked graded his job performance as bad.
    Still, Liberman is the most important politician in the fight for the government's survival, as the author of Israel's national budget – the country's first in over three years. If the coalition succeeds in passing the budget in the Knesset next month, it will remove one of the main threats to its continued existence.
    This is a coalition made up of two ideological right-wing parties -Yamina and the New Hope - on one side, and the left-wing Meretz and the Islamist Ra'am party on the other.
    This political alliance, that has no ideological glue holding it together, would have been considered impossible, had the hate of Netanyahu not acted as its uniting force.
    There is also very little chemistry between the participating party leaders, most of whom stand at the helm of tiny political factions with huge egos and demands.
    Liberman has emerged as the facilitator of this unlikely union.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    אביגדור ליברמן במליאת הכנסת
    אביגדור ליברמן במליאת הכנסת
    Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman in the Knesset after passing budget preliminary vote
    (Photo: AFP)
    In his proposed budget, the finance minister must respond to the demands of Ra'am for more funds to be allocated to the Arab sector. The faction's chair Mansour Abbas and his party members have made no secret of their threats to topple the government, should their demands remain unanswered, prompting right-wing pundits to claim Abbas has Bennett and Lapid wrapped around his little finger.
    Liberman, the man who six years ago ran on the slogan, "without loyalty, there is no citizenship," must now fork out tens of billions of shekels from the treasury to satisfy the Arabs - although it is unlikely that he believes Israeli Arabs have transformed into supporters of Zionism.
    The finance minister may ironically become the one responsible for the most comprehensive and much needed shift in Israel's relations with its Arab citizens, and that is poetic justice as well an ironic twist of history.






    Talkbacks for this article 0