Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman returned to Israel angry Sunday. This isn’t the first time someone ruins his trip. Besides, our foreign minister (for east European states) has good reason to be angry. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chief ally has not been feeling like an ally for a while now. The opposite is true – he feels that everything Netanyahu does is aimed against him.
Lieberman knows well that only one question is relevant in respect to the ongoing crisis vis-à-vis the prime minister: Did Netanyahu really decide to get rid of him and change the makeup of the coalition?
Because everything else, including the conversion law, the budget, the appointments, and even Ben-Eliezer’s meeting with the Turkish foreign minister behind Lieberman’s back, is not a reason that would prompt Yisrael Beiteinu to quite the government.
Lieberman is willing to disregard the crises and swallow the insults, because of a simple reason: The foreign minister has no desire or real reason to quit the government at this time. Quitting now, and because of the above reasons, does not serve his interests.
In order to resign, Lieberman would need cymbals, trumpets, a flag flying high, and if possible the national anthem in the background.
Or in other words, Lieberman will not quit in any way that may portray him as weak, non-influential, or someone forced to resign. When he quits, he will choose the timing and a genuine ideological issue – a national affair that tears the nation apart, such as the continued settlement freeze, for example. This will turn his resignation into an altruistic act, boost his status among his voters, and possibly elicit new voters.
Keeping PM on short leashAt this time, Lieberman only wants to maintain the tension and keep the prime minister on a short leash. He wants to keep playing the role of the unpredictable, impulsive government member, who can get up and quit at any moment.
Lieberman knows well who he’s dealing with. Who else knows the prime minister, his weaknesses, and his thinking patterns so well, in addition to the PM’s inability to decide on much simpler issues than the makeup of his coalition? And Lieberman knows that Netanyahu will find it hard to end the partnership, dismantle his rightist government, get rid of his natural partners, and bring Kadima into the coalition instead.
Netanyahu is scared, and Lieberman, like a Doberman, knows the smell of fear.
On the other hand, Lieberman understands the problem with people who cannot make a decision, and the fact anyone can influence them. He identifies the sway which Defense Minister Barak holds over the PM. He sees the game Barak plays with Livni and the way he amuses himself with the option of bringing her into the government.
Lieberman is familiar with all the constraints on the agenda, ranging from America to Mubarak. He knows it’s just a matter of time. The moment will come where all the conditions will be ripe – the moment where Netanyahu has to take a decision on whether to lose Barak, America, and anyone else still on our side in the world, or get rid of Lieberman.
Lieberman is not ready to quit yet. It’s not his time yet. It may come in September, or not. Yet nobody, even the prime minister, will decide for him when to do it.
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