LibermanFlash 90

Apparently, the Member of Knesset who thought of himself as the kingmaker but turned out to be a serial election-maker is having a hard time getting used to the backbenches of the Opposition. Trying to remain relevant, the former foreign and defense minister is actually succeeding in destroying what is left of his reputation with a string of gauche statements in the space of only a few weeks.

In an interview to the New York Times in the beginning of June he declared emphatically: “We keep our word … Today, everybody knows that you can rely on [my party] … What we promised and what we say is what you will have.” This from the man who reneged on his pledge prior to last year's February election to support Netanyahu for prime minister, making a second round all but inevitable. And who, after accusing the Joint List of Arab parties of being "a fifth column … funded by and act[ing] on behalf of the Palestinian Authority," was ready to agree to join a minority government entirely dependent on them. So much for moral posturing.

In an interview published in Maariv near the end of June he accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of "crushing the [Israeli] defense systems and … dragging all of us to the brink of the abyss … What is [he] doing about [the Iranian threat]?

Talk about poor timing. Later that same day, according to an Iranian spokesman, an "accidental" explosion took place in a "public area" of the Parchin base, where Iran allegedly had been for years conducting research into sophisticated explosives that can be used to detonate a nuclear warhead. Since then, at least six more explosions or fires have mysteriously hit Iranian installations - including one that destroyed a centrifuge assembly center at Iran's key uranium enrichment site in Natanz, which may have significantly set back its nuclear program.

His statement this week to fellow party members that "we will do everything to take this government down" was, at a minimum, insensitive and inopportune during the corona crisis.
After the New York Times quoted a "Middle Eastern intelligence officer" who claimed Israel had planted a bomb in the Natanz site, the MK declared on Galei Tzahal that "the country’s entire security echelon knows who [the leaker] is … I expect the prime minister to shut [the leaker's] mouth, especially since he has started his Likud primary campaign” - thus disclosing that the officer was an Israeli and all but pointing the finger at Mossad Director Yossi Cohen, something that various media outlets duly noted.

Last February, that MK had violated military censorship when he revealed that Cohen and a general had traveled to Qatar earlier in the month, claiming disingenuously that the order blocking the publication of the meeting had been "political." So much for official secrets.

It may be true that one of the "duties" of the opposition is to try to topple and replace the government. But coming soon after three consecutive elections in less than a year that he himself had caused and in the midst of a worsening of the Covid-19 health and economic crises, his statement this week to fellow party members that "we will do everything to take this government down" was, at a minimum, insensitive and inopportune.

The other comment this week from the man that had confidently announced two months ago that he was "[t]he only person who can face Netanyahu" and that he "wish[ed] to create a governing alternative" was that "[Defense Minister Benny] Gantz has a better chance of being the prime minister of Mongolia than of Israel." One thing Gantz could have safely retorted is that his chances of becoming prime minister of Israel are exponentially greater than Avigdor Liberman's.

Julio Messer is a former president of American Friends of Likud