Analysis: Crocodile cheers and jeers after Liberman's acquittal

It is interesting to note what politicians said about Liberman following his acquittal, and what they might say in a truly honest planet.

Avigdor Liberman 370 (photo credit: reuters)
Avigdor Liberman 370
(photo credit: reuters)
Within minutes of the announcement of Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s acquittal in his corruption trial on Wednesday, dozens of Knesset members released statements reacting to the verdict.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, ministers, and MKs competed with their congratulations for Liberman, who has been strengthened tremendously by the legal establishment that has been his nemesis for nearly 17 years of trials and investigations.
Netanyahu left a meeting with the man soon to be Lieberman’s American counterpart, US Secretary of State John Kerry, in order to call him. Just in case the praise the prime minister published minutes after the verdict was not strong enough, his office released another, much longer statement nine hours later.
But with all due respect, what many politicians have said about Liberman behind closed doors in recent months is much less kind than the statements released to the press. They said what they felt compelled to say Wednesday but privately they actually would have been much happier had the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ended Liberman’s political career with a strong conviction backed up by moral turpitude charges.
None of the following should be seen as the revelation of an actual past conversation about Liberman. But it is interesting to note what politicians said Wednesday and what they might say in a truly honest planet in which politicians could speak openly about their strategic interests and their political advancement.
Netanyahu, for instance, said he was looking forward to Liberman’s return to his cabinet table. He said Liberman has been his friend and colleague for many years and condemned the “legal torture” the MK and his family have endured.
But the truth is the prime minister does not trust Liberman, and he would not have minded had Yisrael Beytenu ceased to exist Wednesday. Liberman told Yediot Aharonot Friday that he intends to break the Likud Beytenu partnership at his party’s November 24 convention, which will leave Netanyahu’s Likud with only 20 seats, just one more than Yesh Atid.
Likud ministers Gideon Sa’ar and Yuval Steinitz both praised the verdict and said the cases against Liberman went on for too long. But both Sa’ar and Steinitz have been touted as future foreign ministers, and Liberman’s acquittal prevented them from receiving a promotion that could have given their careers a huge boost.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said he was sure there would be full cooperation with his future boss. But the truth is the party’s over for Elkin, who rose from doctoral Jewish history student at Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus to running the Foreign Ministry up the hill in only seven years.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid “warmly congratulated” Liberman, who will now be able to compete with him for secularist votes in the next election. Lapid’s hopes for the advancement of the peace process were significantly harmed by Liberman’s empowerment.
Bayit Yehudi leaders Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel expressed confidence that Liberman would return to the Foreign Ministry with “new energy.” But do they really want their competition for votes on the Right so energized?
Liberman received praise from haredi MKs Arye Deri, Yisrael Eichler, and Ya’acov Litzman. But they know he will now advance legislation that they and their constituents have been dreading for decades.
Litzman’s call for Liberman to have “many years of success in serving the public” is especially jarring, because Liberman blames Litzman for betraying him in the Jerusalem mayor race and single-handedly preventing the election of his close confidant, Moshe Lion.
If the statements put out praising Liberman were as unauthentic as crocodile tears, the crocodile cheers across most of the political spectrum were mirrored by the crocodile jeers in the Labor Party.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich condemned Liberman as “still corrupt.” But the truth is she must be overjoyed Liberman was acquitted just in time to help her finish off her rival, MK Isaac Herzog, in the Labor leadership race by noting that he has served in a cabinet with Liberman and probably would again.
Her party’s rivals on the Left, Yesh Atid and Hatnua, will also be tainted by serving with Liberman, while Yacimovich can stress her ideological consistency and self sacrifice by keeping her distance from him.
But both the crocodile cheers and jeers are bound to be trumped next Monday. That's when Liberman will be sworn in, and foreign ministers around the world will welcome him with praise that should be taken with the same salt found in crocodile tears.