Analysis: Demise of the top diplomat

Decisions made by politicians tend to have three components: Ideology, politics and personal issues.

May 5, 2015 06:22
3 minute read.
Avigdor Liberman

Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman may have done a service to Israeli public diplomacy when he announced his departure from the Foreign Ministry Monday.

He did this not by quitting and giving up a chance to remain foreign minister for another few years – Foreign Ministry staff has said that, despite criticism, he ran the ministry well and appointed the right diplomats in the right places.

Rather, the service Liberman did to Israeli public diplomacy came in his words when announcing his resignation. In his diatribe, Liberman repeatedly slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the Right.

In an attack that could make it easier for diplomats around the world to defend Netanyahu’s new government, Liberman painted the prime minister as the ultimate dove.

Netanyahu would not commit to building in settlements and in Jerusalem neighborhoods over the pre-1967 lines.

He won’t pass the nation-state bill. He refused to commit to toppling Hamas. He transferred money to the Palestinian Authority. He reiterated his support for a Palestinian state.

So much for the hard-line, extreme right-wing government the international media has portrayed Netanyahu as building.

An interviewer on Al Jazeera sounded amused with Liberman’s characterization of Netanyahu Monday. After hearing Liberman’s principled argument, the interviewer asked for the real reason for his decision.

Decisions made by politicians tend to have three components: Ideology, politics and personal issues.

Liberman’s ideology can be questioned. He has shifted leftward and rightward at a dizzying pace over the past year. He is against bloated governments but served in many. He is against concessions to the ultra-Orthodox but joined coalitions in which plenty of those gestures were made. But, from his point of view, Liberman has remained ideologically consistent and his word remains his bond.

Politically, the move makes no sense. Liberman is giving up the chance to become Israel’s longest-serving foreign minister, passing the legendary Abba Eban.

Instead of receiving an enhanced Foreign Ministry that for the first time would include authority over relations with the United States and tackling the Iran issue, he will sit in the opposition next to Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On. The Russian immigrants who were almost all but half a mandate of Yisrael Beytenu’s electorate will not have Sofa Landver to serve them in the Immigration and Absorption Ministry.

But, if he brings Netanyahu down soon, he could expedite his own political renaissance.

That leaves personal.

Sources close to Liberman said he is frustrated with years of working with Netanyahu and can no longer stand him. They said he still has not recovered from the incident in which Netanyahu committed to consult with him on which presidential candidate other than Reuven Rivlin to support and then Liberman heard on the radio that Netanyahu had endorsed Rivlin.

Another source close to Liberman said the investigation against Yisrael Beytenu, along with the recent death of his mother, had hit him especially hard. He thought he was done with investigations for good, and his mother would see him advance to the top, but it was not meant to be.

Liberman caused the election by refusing to let Netanyahu form a 61-MK coalition with Shas and United Torah Judaism last December.

His departure now will result in the very same 61-MK coalition dominated by the ultra-Orthodox he sought to prevent.

The influence of the ultra-Orthodox will not make the government look too palatable to the international community and much of Diaspora Jewry.

But perhaps the world will be able to rest a bit easier knowing that, at least according to Liberman, the government won’t be right wing.

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