Photo: Gil Yohanan
Avigdor Lieberman
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Putin's local version

Changes proposed by Lieberman will ruin Israeli democracy

Avigdor Lieberman's policy is the most refined disclosure of Israeli fascism thus far. It is a threatening combination that aims to fan the flames of regional conflict, deepen capital's control over the economy and government, institutionalize racism against Israel's Arab citizens, and annul Israeli democracy.


This policy contradicts everything the Labor Party pretends to represent and everything it promised its voters. Therefore, Lieberman's inclusion in the Olmert government places Labor before a strategic choice: Staying in the government and being eliminated both morally and politically as a fascist satellite, or quitting the government, completing the process of creating a social-democratic power, and leading the struggle – that has a chance to succeed – for the country's and society's image.


The agreement between Olmert and Lieberman on changing the system of government constitutes a lethal combination of interests. The change proposed by Lieberman is not meant to strengthen Israeli democracy, but rather, to annul it in order to make room for a local version of Putin. And Lieberman is not alone. This is also the logic behind the system of government proposed by Uriel Reichman, who for two decades now has been aspiring to put politicians at the mercy of the rich, a move that almost worked with the direct elections for prime minister trick.


The similarities between Russia and Israel are not coincidental. Both of them saw a revolution by oligarchs who built their wealth while plundering public assets; both saw oligarchs clashing with the democratic principle; and in both, a "strongman" was required in order to neutralize democracy and define new rules of the game for actions by the capital-ruled elites. In Russia, Putin plays this part. In Israel, those who came up with the "Big Bang" idea and Kadima's creation designated Ariel Sharon and Kadima for this post. Olmert's failure to deliver the goods forced him, in order to survive even for a short time, to bring in Lieberman as the real thing.


Strategic threat

Lieberman's plan for taking over the government is clear: He will allow Olmert and Peretz to wallow in commissions of inquiry and sink – Olmert into real-estate and bribery investigations and Peretz into internal party struggles. In the vacuum created, Lieberman will build himself up as the stable, responsible figure within the government. The powers he already demanded and got as the minister in charge of the "strategic threat" erase the boundary between him and the prime minister and defense minister and turn him into a shadow – and in fact a strategic threat – hanging over them.


After both of them are worn out, Lieberman will break apart the government and push for new elections, which will turn him into the man overseeing the dismantling of Israeli politics.


And of course, Lieberman will enable the budget to be passed, including the Economic Arrangements Bill and its caprices. After all, this is the official reason for him joining the government. The budget, with Netanyahu's spirit hanging over it, will continue to privatize Israeli society, dismantle the reminder of the welfare state, make social security crumble, and increase poverty and despair. Indeed, despair was always a good platform for fascism.


Once Lieberman joins the government, the Labor party will become a needless excess and the only role left to it would be that of serving as a fig leaf for fascism of hatred and destructive capitalism. Labor will lose its veto power and be dragged behind Olmert and Lieberman, dissipating through self-humiliation. Worse than that, as it wanes, Labor will lead to the evaporation of what is left of public faith in the possibility of an alternative to the capitalist-ruled, malicious regime, and will eliminate the chances of social-democracy to build Israel on the basis of human equality, social solidarity, and distributive justice. The absence of an alternative always gave fascism a chance.


Those who support Labor's decision to stay in the government argue that national responsibility requires them to "influence from the inside." This consideration justified Labor's joining the Olmert government, and it is this same argument that now requires it to quit. It is impossible to influence from the inside if it is unclear what is the line beyond which influence can no longer be exerted. When this line blurs, it is no longer possible to exert influence.


Now, this line is very clear: Lieberman's joining – for moral and political considerations – is this line. The belief that it would be possible to define conditions and boundaries for cooperation with him is an illusion. Fascism's strength lies in the fact that it is "neither Right nor Left" and can dress up as both of them at the same time. Its power lies in the fact that it violates the rules while making them and turns its opponents into compulsive gamblers who are certain "it will work next time." The Labor party must break the cycle of addiction it finds itself in.


The Labor party faces a choice: Becoming Lieberman's silver platter, or the basis for a social-democratic struggle against him. The wrong choice could be fateful for the party, but more importantly, for Israeli society as a whole. Therefore, in the face of Lieberman, Labor must adapt the historical rally cry of the struggle against fascism – no pasaran – they shall not pass.


פרסום ראשון: 10.26.06, 18:08
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