Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lieberman's Newfound Power

Over at Time's Swampland blog, Joe Klein worries about the very real possibility that Avigdor Lieberman's far-right (and now, after Gaza, broadly accepted) Yisrael Beiteinu party will play a prominent role in Israel's next government. (His disdain for the party is justified; Yisrael Beiteinu is xenophobic toward Israeli Arabs, calls for their parties to be banned in the upcoming election, and has accused some Israeli-Arabs of conspiring with Hamas.) Klein writes,
"If, as seems likely, Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party wins the election next Tuesday, this will be a real test. Netanyahu will have to build a coalition to govern--does he include Yisrael Beitanu?...If Netanyahu goes the radical route, it has to be seen as an extremely provocative, xenophobic (and perhaps racist) move. The U.S. should express deep concern and disapproval."

Klein is right to be concerned, but this sentiment is far from new. Commentators and politicians in Israel and the U.S. have been worrying about a possible Bibi-Lieberman right-wing all-star team for quite some time now.

However, what's even more noteworthy than Lieberman's acceptance among Likud leaders is his acceptance among the leaders of the other two major parties. Today, Kadima's Tzipi Livni proclaimed that Lieberman is a viable coalition partner, and Labor's Ehud Barak, despite complaints from party members, has said the same. (They both included the caveat that Lieberman must adhere to their party's principles in any coalition government. Good luck.)

Bibi's potential coalition with Lieberman was never too surprising. That both Livni and Barak have deemed it potentially acceptable, however, shows Yisrael Beiteinu's established and growing power.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect that Bibi is too clever and too sensitive to Western elite opinion to form a narrow coalition dependent on parties to his right like Lieberman and Shas. As much as Joe Klein may feel antipathy for Netanyahu, Bibi won't want to put himself into a confrontation with the Clinton State Department and to give President Obama problems with the pragmatic Arab leaders over a personnel matter -- especially as Preisdent Obama is likely already getting advice that the Palestinian matter isn't solvable in the near term due to a failure of leadership in the Palestinian world, even if the US could magically get Israeli concessions on roadblocks and settlements. Thus, look to Bibi to call for a National Unity government with a very broad coalition, including Kadima and Labor, in order to address the grave concern that underlies the entire rationale for Bibi's candidacy: Iran. Once they are on board, Bibi can pick up Lieberman without unduly disrupting the centrist feel of his government, and can keep Livni as Foreign Minister, and put Ehud Barak (or his real first choice, fellow Likud Party member and former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon) at the Defense Ministry. Lieberman can be brought into the government, but with a less visible ministry, even if we are sure to hear about it from Joe Klein.