Reading foreign press coverage of Avigdor Lieberman's pending entry into the government leaves one with the impression that while the Yisrael Beiteinu leader is slated to be a minister to counter strategic threats from Iran and elsewhere, he himself is a "loose cannon" who poses a strategic threat - to Israel.
Britain's The Independent cites Labor Party cabinet minister Ophir Pines-Paz as saying that to ask Lieberman to deal with strategic threats was a "joke," adding: "He is a strategic threat."
Its Jerusalem correspondent, Donald Macintyre, also quotes political science professor Zeev Sternhell from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (where Lieberman received his BA in Social Sciences) as saying that Lieberman may be "the most dangerous politician in our political history" because of his "cocktail of nationalism, authoritarianism and dictatorial mentality" and because, unlike previous extreme-right figures he was not "marginalized."
Sternhell is then quoted as adding: "I cannot forget that Mussolini came to power with only 30 members of parliament."
"He said Olmert had 'cynically' brought Lieberman in to bolster his own position 'in the belief he will be able to control him. I am afraid that will be much more difficult than he thinks.'"
Greg Myre of The New York Times leads his report (headlined: "New voice on Right in Israeli cabinet is likely to be loud) as saying that "Israel's parliament has a long tradition of heated debate, but Avigdor Lieberman may be the only lawmaker who has called for the execution of fellow legislators."
Back in May, he reports, Lieberman said he would support the death penalty for Arab lawmakers who met with Hizbullah or Hamas, and quotes him as saying the following: "World War II ended with the Nuremberg trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in this house."
Myre quotes Lieberman saying two years ago: "If we want to stop the conflict, we must separate the two peoples. The main problem is the Israeli Arabs. I think separation has to include them. I am talking about a land swap as well as a population swap. This seems brutal and sounds brutal, but there is no other solution."
Under Lieberman's plan, the Times says, a cluster of Arab towns in northern Israel would become part of the West Bank, while Jewish settlements in the West Bank would be annexed to Israel.
In response, the Times quotes MK Ahmed Tibi as saying: "This is a man who calls for the transfer of Arab citizens out of Israel, and he is being upgraded, not downgraded. This sends a message to the Arab minority in Israel that it is legitimate to talk about expelling us from the country."
Lieberman, who lives with his wife, Ella, and three children in Nokdim, a settlement on the West Bank, writes the Times, "seems not to worry about bruising Arab feelings."
"I don't believe at the moment in any compromise with the Palestinians," Lieberman is said to have stated shortly after the elections in March. "We've made a lot of arrangements with them, a lot of compromises. They didn't honor any of them."
A Los Angeles Times report by Richard Boudreaux is headlined, "Olmert brings hawk into his coalition," with a sub-head, "Rightist party leader has advocated annexing parts of the West Bank."
"The 48-year-old Lieberman, an immigrant from the former Soviet republic of Moldova and a former nightclub bouncer, is one of Israel's most divisive politicians," Boudreaux writes. "He has advocated redrawing Israel's borders in a way that would trade Israeli Arab towns for West Bank settlements and strip Israeli Arabs of their citizenship."
He too notes that Lieberman will be given the rank of deputy prime minister and be put in charge of dealing with "strategic threats" to Israel, including Iran's nuclear ambitions.
But then he quotes political analyst Yossi Alpher as saying that Olmert "is bringing an unguided missile, a loose cannon, into his government. This says something very worrisome to me about Olmert's way of handing out security portfolios."
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