Israeli Politics, Soviet Style

Excerpt: Homo Sovieticus’ helped get Avigdor Lieberman to where he is – although it probably won’t be around forever.

Avigdor Lieberman 521 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Avigdor Lieberman 521
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
DEPENDING ON YOUR POINT OF VIEW, FOREIGN Minister Avigdor Lieberman is one of the best things to have emerged from Israeli politics, or one of the most disturbing. He has the build, expression and demeanor of a no-nonsense bodyguard who – again, depending on your point of view – can be counted on to either save your life or rip out your liver.
For most everyone who has heard of him, there’s no middle ground.
You either love him or loathe him.
He wants a loyalty oath for Israeli Arabs, whom he considers a fifth column, and the death penalty for terrorists. He routinely mocks Israel’s enemies and even some of its friends, and seems to delight in antagonizing Arab Members of Knesset. He was once arrested for assaulting a pre-teenage boy who allegedly beat up his son, and currently faces indictment on suspicion of corruption. No less a Zionist than editor emeritus of the “The New Republic” Martin Peretz is said to have called him a “neo-fascist,” a “gangster” and “the Israeli equivalent of [Austria’s] Jörg Haider.”
Still, it’s probably no coincidence that Lieberman has emerged as a major political player and leader of the third-largest party in the Knesset. After all, these are dangerous times, with Islamists able and seemingly ready to hurl rockets indiscriminately from the near north and south; other Islamists a bit farther away who enrich uranium and, with a wink they hardly bother to hide, insist it’s merely for peaceful purposes; and a world that, while professing a sincere concern about all this, often seems, at least from inside Israel, to care not a whit.
Perhaps even more important, though, there is a sizable segment of the population that shares Lieberman’s worldview. Many are nativeborn, but even more are not.
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