Who in the world is Avigdor Lieberman?

International media compare Israel Beiteinu leader to Austria's Haider and France's Le Pen.

elections2009_248 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
To some, he is the Jörg Haider of Israel, to others, "the king-maker" - what's certain is that his success in the 2009 elections has made him the talk of the town. After recognizing the fact that Israel does not yet have a prime minister, foreign news agencies worldwide in their analysis of Tuesday's elections could talk about only one thing: Israel's shift to the political right, spearheaded by Moldovan-born former nightclub-owner and chairman of Israel Beitenu, Avigdor Lieberman. With a slogan of "No loyalty, no citizenship," Lieberman's party has, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "ridden on a wave of frustration" to become the third largest party in Israel. Le Monde's Jerusalem correspondent, Michel Bôle-Richard, declared her distaste for Lieberman's party in an interview, comparing it to the far right, nationalist French party National Front, and the Freedom Party of Austria under former party leader Jörg Haider, who has come under fire in the past for praising Nazi policies. Bôle-Richard charged that during his campaign Lieberman had been guilty of "crossing the red lines of racism." In an opinion piece in The Los Angeles Times, M.J. Rosenberg echoed Bôle-Richard's sentiments, comparing Lieberman to Jörg Haider and the anarchist founder of the French National Unity party, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Still, Rosenberg said that Lieberman's antics would not affect Israel's chances for peace: "This may not affect the peace process, the fate of which rests less on the makeup of Israel's government than on [US President Barack] Obama's level of determination," he wrote. English daily The Guardian referred to Lieberman as the "king-maker," and addressed the position Tzipi Livni would find herself in if she decided to include him in a coalition. "If Livni can draw him into a coalition she might hope to find a majority, but including him might cost her the support of some of the more left-wing parties," the paper said. German daily Der Spiegel described the election results as indicative of "a lurch to the right" by the Israel public and declared that now "more than half of the Knesset is in the hands of conservatives and ultra-conservatives." Echoing Der Spiegel, the Russian News Agency's Russia Today, in a video broadcast of the elections, called Labor's fall from grace "unprecedented," and outlined the fears of Israel's Arab parties. "We're hearing from Arab parties in Israel that the Israeli government will be a fascist government, particularly with Lieberman, who has in the past called for the transfer of Arabs. He has spoken out very much against Arab Israelis and Palestinians," the broadcaster said. While documenting the rise of Lieberman, newspapers did not discount the power still held by Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. The last line of an article in Der Spiegel declared, "Israel has voted. Now it's up to Bibi to decide."