In the previous elections it was the Pensioners’ Party. For every pensioner that voted because he truly thought that Rafi Eitan will salvage his pension, there were at least two others, young ones usually, who were swept by the trend – that thing which may have been vague, yet appeared more appropriate and right and cool than Olmert and Peretz and Netanyahu. It was a gimmick, but a gimmick with a just cause.
The gimmick of the 2009 elections is Avigdor Lieberman. True, he has some traditional, genuine supporters – former immigrants from the Soviet Union, people who hate Arabs, and supporters of the Greater Land of Israel who want a genuine Right. Yet if the polls are accurate, and Yisrael Beiteinu is about to become the third largest Knesset faction, it is because for every genuine Lieberman voter there is another one who just does it for the hell of it. Tzipi bores him, he doesn’t believe Bibi, and he fails to understand Barak. Lieberman solves the problem for such people: He is clear, he is credible, and he is certainly not boring.
The media tries to frighten us here and there by saying that Lieberman is dangerous. Yet the public, with its healthy instincts, realizes that Lieberman may bark loudly, but he doesn’t really bite. Sit down for a candid conversation with Ahmad Tibi, without microphones or High Court judges around, and he will tell you that Livni scares him much more than Lieberman’s childish threats.
Lieberman voters in the upcoming elections can be divided into roughly two types. The naïve ones who believe that with the former minister for strategic threats there will no longer be threats or threatening parties around here, and those who know that Lieberman cannot and does not really intend to devour Arabs or undermine democracy - and that even if he intends to do it, no prime minister would allow that.
The “terrible Avigdor” is turning into the nice gimmick of 2009 even among those who are far away from his views. Just like three years ago Rafi Eitan managed to become the gimmick among young voters, who voted for him without even knowing who this friendly and smiling at the head of the party is.
Lieberman enters the vacuum of despair and boredom in the face of the “regular politicians,” yet just like with every elections gimmick, here too we shall see disappointment follow the enthusiasm.
Those who are waiting to see Lieberman devouring Arabs in the Israeli government will get, to their regret, Lieberman as a responsible and calculated politician, just like everyone else. And those who expect to see someone who will add some action and drama and spice to our tired politics, will very quickly discover that Lieberman certainly understands the difference between the promo and the movie itself.
Should he join the next government, and should he be able to survive the police probes, Lieberman is an adult by now who wishes to take the safe road and truly make a difference, not only via terrifying election ads.
The hope that he stirs among many around here will apparently make a difference on February 10. Lieberman is the winning gimmick of the 2009 elections; a gimmick with a beard.