Nahum Barnea
Time to go, Lieberman
Never before has a minister prompted so much embarrassment, shame

It appears that the time has come to tell Minister Lieberman, with all due respect and politeness, please go. Go away. You can go working for your daughter, who overnight magically became a financial whiz. Go to your home at the settlement of Nokdim to count the sheep of your Palestinian neighbors. Go to Minsk, the capital of the Belarusian dictatorship; your favorite state in Europe. Become newly religious, or newly secular, travel the world, free as a bird. Just go.


It’s too early to determine whether Lieberman is criminally at fault in respect to the affair attributed to him now. Like any other person under interrogation, he is innocent until proven guilty. Yet he is not innocent when it comes to shame: It is doubtful whether an Israeli government ever included a minister who caused the State such great embarrassment internationally and such great shame domestically.


Lieberman is guilty of obstruction: He has obstructed and is still obstructing the efforts to improve Israel’s status in the world. Lieberman is also guilty of breach of trust: During his year in the post of foreign minister he breached the trust of the citizens of his country.


If the reports published Tuesday are accurate, while serving as our envoy in Belarus, Lieberman’s protégé Ze’ev Ben-Ariyeh received a sealed envelope from the Israel Police containing classified investigation details. He was supposed to hand the envelope over as is to Belarusian authorities. Instead, he opened it and handed over its contents to Lieberman, who at the time was a Knesset member (and denies that he read the document.)


When Lieberman was appointed foreign minister he promoted Ben-Ariyeh, making him his advisor, and recently promoted him to the post of ambassador in the Baltic States.


Something doesn’t add up here: If Lieberman refused to look at the document for fear it would constitute an offence, why didn’t he file a police complaint, and why did he promote the offender instead of dismissing him? And if he did not fear any wrongdoing was involved, why did he refuse to read the document?


No respect for voters

Both Lieberman and Ben-Ariyeh seemingly claim that they acted in good faith: They just didn’t know, didn’t think, and didn’t understand. Good faith is a reasonable argument when it pertains to children or to new immigrants who just arrived. Yet in Lieberman’s case, it’s pathetic.


The man is 52-years-old. He made Aliyah to Israel 32 years ago – that’s ages ago – and he has been contending with police investigators and prosecutors for more than 12 years now. If despite this impressive experience Lieberman did not understand what he was doing, he must be a complete fool.


Yet Lieberman is no fool. Never. He may be arrogant or reckless. But in no way is he a fool.


Lieberman is convinced that many Israelis have trouble accepting him because of his descent. He is a victim of hatred for others. He is also a victim of journalists, who apparently hate him because he fights for our national honor. Yet both these arguments miss the essence. Lieberman is admired by some Israelis and hated by others for precisely the same reason: The contempt he shows to Israeli society, its democratic rules, and its institutions.


Lieberman speaks of national honor, yet his conduct shows no respect for the State that allows him to make a living. He also has no respect for his voters: The promises he made on the eve of the elections – impose law and order, screw the Arabs, change marriage laws (each election campaign has its own slogan) – disappeared as if they never existed the day after the polling stations closed.


Shame can be destructive; a society that does not respect its ministers has trouble maintaining democratic rules of play over time. This is the danger inherent in a politician like Lieberman. He makes citizens fed up not only with him and his party, but rather, with the entire system of government.


In other eras, someone would get up and show up at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem with a sign bearing a two-word message: “Lieberman, enough.” Yet this is no longer the case. Israelis are too cynical and sober to the point of paralysis. A whole society is afflicted with Liebermania. 


פרסום ראשון: 03.04.10, 00:53
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