Avigdor Liberman's Rebooting

Liberman will now do all he can to bring the government down.

Alexander Maistrovoy

OpEds לשנות את השיטה. ליברמן
לשנות את השיטה. ליברמן

By joining the Opposition in the new Knesset, Yisrael Beytenu head, MK Avigdor Liberman, hopes to rebrand himself as a “hawk” and a supporter of social equality.

Liberman’s decision not to join the coalition was a surprise to many Israelis. What prompted the leader of Yisrael Beytenu to take such a step?

1. Joining the coalition would have silenced him. During his campaign, Lieberman strongly opposed funding haredi Jews. He was opposed to canceling the bills which seek a more equitable sharing of the burden of military service in Israel, and the reform of conversion (giur) and Netanyahu promised the haredi MK's that he would do just that.

Bibi agreed to fulfill all demands of the Haredim and thus Liberman lost room for maneuvering. He would became a loser from point of view of his voters. Especially in situation when Bibi refused to allocate funds for the needs of “Russian” pensioners i.e., increase construction of social housing and pensions.

2. It is much easier and more convenient to criticize the government and Bibi from the opposition. Liberman will use every opportunity to criticize every concession of Bibi like,
– caving to pressure from Obama and EU,
– making “steps of good will” i.e., gestures, to the Palestinians,
– weakness and hesitancy in war against Hamas.

Criticizing Bibi, Liberman thinks he can win support of the right wing, who demand a strong government.

3. Liberman is experienced and crafty player. He wants to take revenge for the failure in last elections. And he wants to do it as fast as possible, because staying in the opposition too long could weaken his party. He knows that a government based on 61 mandates is very shaky, especially under the inevitable strong pressure from Obama.

Liberman will do all he can to bring the government down. He will be, in such case, in a good position as defender of the “Russian case”, a strong supporter of equal burden-sharing with the haredi sector, and most importantly, uncompromising opponent of any political concessions.

He called his own decision, a “restart”.

This plan will be risky if the government is stable and successful. But Liberman is sure that won’t happen. Any concessions or an unsuccessful campaign in Gaza or Southern Lebanon will undermine support for Bibi and Likud. In such an event Liberman would present himself as a hawk or strongman and Bibi as a wimp.

The author was an adviser to Liberman during the election campaign and during negotiations.