Yisrael Beytenu MK Avigdor Liberman .
(photo credit: KOBI ZOLTAK)
Contrary to past rhetoric and despite fears expressed by some of his opponents, Israel’s next defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, will not have the authority to lead Israel into conflict should he wish to and, in any case, he is unlikely to try and push national policy in that direction any time soon.
Liberman will be sworn in at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Tuesday and be greeted by an IDF honor guard. Soon after the formalities are over, he will begin a series of in-depth briefings with the IDF General Staff, and receive access to the most classified, sensitive assessments and intelligence, which shed much light on Israel’s complex, sensitive security reality.
It will take Liberman some time to become acquainted with all of the data, and during that time it is safe to assume that he will refrain from irresponsible or reckless rhetoric. When it comes to action, Israel’s defense policies are set, first and foremost, by the prime minister not the defense minister.
Any decision that carries the potential to lead Israel into a security escalation that can cost lives requires the approval of the security cabinet, and such votes come only after cabinet members have received full briefings from the relevant General Staff members.
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the opposition, he called for Hamas to be toppled in Gaza, and Liberman has found it useful to make the same calls from the ranks of the opposition. Once in power, however, Netanyahu managed two conflicts in response to threats from Gaza, and in neither case did he order the IDF to topple the Hamas regime or replace it with a military government. This is a pattern Liberman is likely to follow.
Liberman is known for his fiery rhetoric, yet he has no ideological commitment to a greater Israel vision. The dizzying quantity of intelligence and assessments he will now receive will likely keep him busy for a long time to come.