Photo: Avihu Shapira
RAMALLAH – For the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the name Avigdor Lieberman evokes mostly fear. And this is not surprising, as the resigning foreign minister believes the Palestinian citizens of the state pose a demographic and security threat, and in the last Knesset his party submitted numerous bills aimed at eroding their power and encouraging them to leave the country.
The rise of Yisrael Beiteinu, which was established only 13 years ago and became the third largest party in Israel, is linked to Lieberman and his ability to identify the political potential of the Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Lieberman took advantage of the sense of national and religious oppression the Jewish immigrants arrived in Israel with and used it to shift the Russian vote from parties that were close to the Labor Party and the center (mainly Yisrael B'Aliyah) to his own party.
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While studying in Jerusalem Lieberman worked as a bouncer at a nightclub, and it appears that as a politician he is applying what he learned there. The last person who got a taste of this was his no.2 man in the party, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who was surprised to find that he was not on Yisrael Beiteinu's list of candidates for the upcoming elections. During his tenure Lieberman demanded that Iran and the Aswan Dam in Egypt be attacked. He did not stop making such demands throughout his term.
Due to these methods and his worldview, the Palestinian citizens of Israel breathed a sigh of relief when Lieberman announced his resignation. They know that his ways are accepted by Israeli society and that many politicians on the Likud-Beiteinu list are just as extreme as he is. And still, Lieberman is regarded as being at the forefront of the activity against Israeli Palestinians.
However, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza did not celebrate Lieberman's resignation. Over the past few years Lieberman has served the Palestinians' public relations efforts all over the world very well, mainly due to his problematic personality and boorish ways. Most of the world's leaders view him as persona non grata, and who would have believed that an American secretary of state would avoid meeting her Israeli counterpart?
During Lieberman's tenure the Palestinians succeeded in isolating Israel and exposing its ugly face. During his term Israel made new enemies and the boycott campaign against the country intensified. Lieberman was the one who pushed for the raid on the Marmara ship and was against issuing an apology to Turkey; and it was Lieberman who reprimanded the foreign ministers of France and Britain, until Ehud Barak had to remind him that "Germany, France and Britain are not Tanzania, Mauritania or Tripolitania."
In the end Lieberman was forced to resign because of the indictment against him and not because of his failures as a foreign minister, but it remains unclear how this will affect his political career and the success of Likud-Beiteinu in the upcoming elections. But one thing is certain: Those who benefited most from Lieberman's position at the forefront of Israeli diplomacy were the people in charge of the Palestinians' public relations efforts. The Palestinians had some great achievements during Lieberman's tenure, the most important being the UN's recognition of Palestine as a non-member state. Lieberman's departure is a great loss for Palestinian diplomacy. Lieberman was good for the Palestinians.
Akram Attalah is a Palestinian political analyst. The article was originally published in the Ramallah-based Al-Ayyam newspaper