Resigning foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman apologized Sunday for the terminology he used in reference to the three opposition party leaders – Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yechimovich and Zehava Galon.
On Thursday, in the course of a party event, Lieberman referred to the legal charges against him and to the attacks mounted on him by Livni, Yechimovich and Galon, who were quick to demand his dismissal from the government even before he had a chance to announce his resignation.
"I have seen the attacks by the three veibers who went after me, Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yechimovich, Zehava Galon – the Polish group," he said, using a Yiddish term for women that often carries a humorous and somewhat disparaging overtone.
"Polish," in this context, is the Israeli version of "Jewish mother" – it is used in countless jokes about Ashkenazi Jewish women who are often stereotyped as stuffy and prone to using guilt against their relatives and acquaintances. One theme that appears in many jokes is that of a Polish mother who tells her children that she is alone at home and her lamp has burned out but assures them – "it is alright, I will just sit here in the dark."
"Actually, Zehava is Lithuanian. She is not Polish, I think," Lieberman added, to his audience's amusement. "The three veibers attack me with gusto," he went on. "They were not attacking me; they were fighting each other through me. In the end, one cannot ignore these things."
After receiving criticism for the comment over the weekend, Lieberman issued an apology on his Facebook page, but it was not an overly serious one.
"As one who greatly appreciates the Polish community in Israel and its contribution to the state over the years, and as one whose faction in the last elections was made up of one third women, who also have senior positions, I did not think that such a small joke would make such a big noise," he said.
He offered his "sincere apology" to anyone who was offended but added – "and now I will sit in the dark a little, and think about it again."
Lieberman has used Yiddish effectively in the past to label his political opponents. He called Likud's Dan Meridor, Michael Eitan and Benny Begin "feinshmekers" for opposing legislation that would have limited the courts' political activism.