Photo: Getty Images
Avigdor Lieberman
Photo: Getty Images
Ron Ben-Yishai

Lieberman's resignation is no great loss

Op-ed: Lieberman only had marginal influence on the IDF, his hysterical proclamations on Gaza exploded in his face, he did not know how to transform from a citizen, politician into a decision-maker with a vision.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was right in claiming that the Cabinet's decision on Tuesday was a "surrender to terrorism." This is despite the fact that Lieberman is aware of the "hidden" issues that the prime minister referred to when he tried to explain the decision that Lieberman called "flimsy." Lieberman simply does not attribute the same importance to them.



Besides, the very resignation, and Lieberman knows it, is not helpful. It gives a very important asset to Hamas free of charge, which will encourage them no less than the cabinet's decision. The organization yesterday proposed to Netanyahu to fire the defense minister, "who bore responsibility for the latest cycle of violence." They could not have dreamt that their proposal would become a reality within 24 hours.


Avigdor Lieberman  (Photo: Ehud Zwigenberg)
Avigdor Lieberman (Photo: Ehud Zwigenberg)

However, Lieberman's resignation does not really undermine national security. A defense minister in the State of Israel does not have to be a general, not even a company commander, in order to succeed in his job; military training and military experience are desirable, but not necessary for success.


However, he who holds the position must possess several features:


He must be a skilled and influential politician, so that he will be able to pass the decisions in the coalition and cabinet that he and the defense establishment deem necessary.


He must have common sense and self-confidence, so that he can present difficult questions to IDF generals and senior members of the defense establishment without trying to flatter and appease them.


He must be a leader capable of demanding answers to the questions he asks as well as ensure that the instructions he gives are followed.


He has to have a moral backbone and vision, so as not to be dragged by the cries of the masses into making populist decisions on issues that affect human life and the existence of the nation. In this matter, Lieberman's position and conduct in the Elor Azaria saga must not be forgotten.


Of all these qualifications, Lieberman had only two: common sense and political skill.


He lacked the other qualifications, so he hardly left his mark and did not affect the strategic agenda and national security. His influence on the IDF's structure, organization, and equipment was also not great, to put it mildly.


In the political sphere, that is, in the cabinet, he was one of equals, and not as important and influential as he should have been on issues of war and peace.


This is not a coincidence. Lieberman deliberately sought to be defense minister as a springboard for the post of prime minister, his real goal. A reasonable performance as defense minister without major mishaps was supposed to give him the legitimacy to enter the Prime Minister's Office someday, when the timing is right.


Therefore, Lieberman gave the chief of staff and the generals of the General Staff almost complete freedom of action in everything related to the operation and structure of the IDF. He rarely intervened in routine matters, but promised that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be in the loop on all decisions that had a political and strategic significance.


In matters of the Defense Ministry, he was much more active, especially in subjects he had an understanding in, such as the issue of providing protection to the towns in the shadow of the conflict and the defense industries.


The plan for fortification and emergency preparedness currently being implemented is in fact the main achievement of the Lieberman period in the Defense Ministry.


The IDF, and especially the chief of staff, made sure to honor him but only allowed him influence on the margins. On the really important issues, the IDF knew how to convince Lieberman to accept what the chief of staff and the generals of the General Staff had decided in advance and after long discussions.


The generals did not trick Lieberman, nor conceal information from him, but they knew how to win him over, and because he knew that their success was his success, he was happy to go along.


Thus, for example, the surface-to-surface missile force that Lieberman wanted to establish, which was not even close to taking shape, the IDF certainly increased its arsenal of precise munitions and integrated them into the Artillery Corps and other bodies.


Eisenkot knew how not to give up on issues that really mattered to him without embarrassing the defense minister in the media, and Lieberman understood this and was grateful. Thus, Lieberman could quietly expect a nice and successful conclusion of his term, which, as stated, will put him on the launching pad for the Prime Minister's Office.


Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh


There was, however, one main obstacle that Lieberman brought with him to the Defense Ministry: his statements on the Gaza issue, including his viral statement about the 48 hour ultimatum he gave to Hamas leader Haniyeh. These came back to him as a boomerang, again and again.


In the end, it was the matter of Gaza that exploded in his face and caused him to leave prematurely. The main reason for this is that Lieberman behaved like a politician, and not as one with whom the law entrusts with the supervision and management of the security affairs of the State of Israel.


Repeated pronouncements intended to give him prestige in his political "base" ultimately made him seem pathetic at best, and at worst ridiculous. A defense minister who repeatedly declares that the army and the cabinet do not accept his positions and his mudslinging with Minister Bennett have turned him from a decision maker into a member of an uninteresting debate club.


Lieberman, like Moshe Arens before him, did not know how to transform from a citizen and a politician into a decision-maker possessing vision.



פרסום ראשון: 11.14.18, 22:37
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