The Other Lieberman
The Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman recently found a novel way to highlight the causes for the enthusiasm he generates and the hostility he provokes. In the midst of a live interview in April, Lieberman, now Israel’s foreign minister, apparently flushed the toilet during a discussion of Hamas. Utterly without airs and utterly without delicacy, Lieberman is the most polarizing figure in Israel. In 2009, his party, the secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, closed election night with its highest showing ever: 15 seats in the Knesset. The strength he displayed compelled Benjamin Netanyahu to give Lieberman the plum position of foreign minister and the title of deputy prime minister.
In most democratic systems, a figure as controversial as Lieberman could not rise any higher. But thanks to the fragmented nature of Israeli party politics, the possibility of Lieberman becoming prime minister of the Jewish state must be taken seriously. That is a nightmarish prospect to those who deem themselves holders of enlightened opinion in Israel and those who pay attention to Israeli politics in the West. Among them, he occupies a position somewhat akin to Sarah Palin’s, with a little Al Sharpton in the mix.
About the Author
Seth Mandel is a 2011 National Security Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. This is his first article for Commentary.