Identity, Israel, Justice, Politics

Keeping Lieberman Out of the Coalition

Even before the dust settles on the Israeli elections, it’s obvious that Yisrael Beiteinu, which came in third after Kadima and Likud (with 15 seats–more than Labor, this time around), is going to be of serious interest to either Tzipi or Bibi (depending on who becomes Prime Minister in the end) in terms of forming a coalition government. (In fact, discussions are already happening.)
Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman’s racist, uber-nationalist ideas are bad for Israel on multiple levels.
A petition written by an Israeli and an American Jew is going around now to start with the noise-making–here’s the text of the thing. Go here to sign and to see references to the quotes.

After their close showings in the recent Israeli election, either Binyamin Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni may soon be in a position to assemble a parliamentary coalition that can govern as a majority. Both are considering partnering with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Israel Beiteinu party. As friends of Israel and supporters of Israeli democracy, we say: Don’t do it!
Through his platform and his rhetoric — see below for a summary — Mr. Lieberman threatens Israeli society with the darkness of race-baiting, demagoguery and ultra-nationalism. We respect the right of Israeli citizens to elect their own political leadership, yet as supporters of a democratic state we cannot remain silent at this crucial time. We remember too well how democracies in the 20th century were brought down by anti-democratic leaders who came to power through popular elections.
Granting Mr. Lieberman a senior ministerial post would endanger the foundations of Israel as a democratic state and delegitimize it in the eyes of the world. Such a government would be one that even Israel’s friends would find increasingly difficult — if not impossible — to identify with or support.
Sign this letter urging Netanyahu and Livni not to form a coalition with Israel Beiteinu or offer Lieberman a senior government portfolio.
Why would placing Avigdor Lieberman in a key government role threaten Israel’s democratic foundations?
* He has called for Arab citizens of Israel to sign an “oath of loyalty” to the state or be stripped of their citizenship. [1] * He has proposed that Arab-populated areas which are currently part of Israel be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, regardless of the wishes of citizens living in these areas. [2] * He has called for any Arab Knesset members who meet with the Palestinian majority-elected Islamist party Hamas to be executed as “collaborators”. To Arab members of the Knesset, he has recently threatened that “a new administration will be established and then we will take care of you”. [3,4] * He led the drive in Israel’s Central Election Committee to have Arab political parties banned from running in the most recent election, which passed successfully and was overturned only by the Israeli Supreme Court. [5]

Again, go here to sign.

23 thoughts on “Keeping Lieberman Out of the Coalition

  1. A) The petition, like most online petitions, won’t accomplish anything
    B) As much as Lieberman disgusts me and I didn’t and wouldn’t vote for Yisrael Beitenu, it’s not for Diaspora Jews to get involved in the Israeli political system or domestic Israeli politics. You’re a Jew and it’s your homeland to? Then make aliya! Then, perhaps, Israel Beitenu won’t have the control that he does.

  2. I wouldn’t vote for the guy, but something struck me about the petition. It attacks his right to be in the government despite hi strong showing in the election, yet affirms Hamas’ right to rule based on electoral process. Interesting…

  3. Danya, I think you may be underestimating how bad the situation is. I’m not entirely sure that Lieberman is worse than Bibi. Bibi is more or less explicitly a colonialist. Lieberman may be openly contemptuous of Israel’s democratic norms, but he has repeatedly stated his amenability to significant Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank. The way the math came out, it looks like any coalition is going to have to include Yisrael Beiteinu or Likud. At this point, it’s difficult to see Bibi sitting in Livni’s government, especially if the soldiers give Likud another mandate, as the experts are predicting. In other words, the choice is between having a prime minister who ran on a platform of reinforcing and making permanent West Bank apartheid, and having a cabinet minister who wants Israel to selectively disenfranchise its citizens on the basis of race. If either of these guys gets his druthers, you end up with large numbers of permanently disenfranchised Palestinians.
    The question then becomes who is more likely to be able to implement his horrible ideas. You could do a lot worse than relying on Bibi’s fecklessness and malleability, both amply demonstrated in his previous tour as PM, but I’m not entirely sure that Lieberman is the greater evil. Early reports are that Kadima is dangling systemic political reform as the major portfolio to get Lieberman into the government. This means putting more power in the hands of the prime minister– a major plank in Lieberman’s platform– not disenfranchising Arabs. As bad as this Knesset looks, it would be extremely difficult to build a parliamentary majority for disenfranchisement. There’s no way it’s on the agenda for this Knesset.
    On the other hand, I really do think it’s likely that Bibi will end up as PM, and run the government poorly for two years or so until constant cabinet infighting/corruption/etc lead to new election. That may be the best case scenario. Clearly, I’m not exactly partying like it’s 1999.
    (I mean that literally. I was pretty happy when Barak won)

  4. Danya, I think you may be underestimating how bad the situation is. I’m not entirely sure that Lieberman is worse than Bibi. Bibi is more or less explicitly a colonialist. Lieberman may be openly contemptuous of Israel’s democratic norms, but he has repeatedly stated his amenability to significant Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank. The way the math came out, it looks like any coalition is going to have to include Yisrael Beiteinu or Likud. At this point, it’s difficult to see Bibi sitting in Livni’s government, especially if the soldiers give Likud another mandate, as the experts are predicting. In other words, the choice is between having a prime minister who ran on a platform of reinforcing and making permanent West Bank apartheid, and having a cabinet minister who wants Israel to selectively disenfranchise its citizens on the basis of race. If either of these guys gets his druthers, you end up with large numbers of permanently disenfranchised Palestinians.
    The question then becomes who is more likely to be able to implement his horrible ideas. You could do a lot worse than relying on Bibi’s fecklessness and malleability, both amply demonstrated in his previous tour as PM, but I’m not entirely sure that Lieberman is the greater evil. Early reports are that Kadima is dangling systemic political reform as the major portfolio to get Lieberman into the government. This means putting more power in the hands of the prime minister– a major plank in Lieberman’s platform– not disenfranchising Arabs. As bad as this Knesset looks, it would be extremely difficult to build a parliamentary majority for disenfranchisement. There’s no way it’s on the agenda for this Knesset.
    On the other hand, I really do think it’s likely that Bibi will end up as PM, and run the government poorly for two years or so until constant cabinet infighting/corruption/etc lead to new election. That may be the best case scenario. Clearly, I’m not exactly partying like it’s 1999.
    (I mean that literally. I was pretty happy when Barak won)

  5. amechad. It is not for diaspora jews to get involved? Perhaps you also don’t want any ambulances in Israel (sponsored by diaspora jews), or any money for hospitals in generals (or Universities, charities and so on)
    I guess you don’t want their political support either. You probably don’t want AIPAC, or any other lobbies making sure the ISraeli government’s case is heard in every parliament around the world.
    I am also guessing you are against the Jewish agency?
    (btw, i think it is perfectly fine to oppose all three, but somehow I have a feeling you think Diaspora jewish connections to Israel are fine, so long as they come in the form of support and not criticism.)

  6. “If either of these guys gets his druthers, you end up with large numbers of permanently disenfranchised Palestinians.”
    They most certainly be franchised–in Palestine.

  7. “If either of these guys gets his druthers, you end up with large numbers of permanently disenfranchised Palestinians.”
    Excuse me…
    They most certainly will be franchised–in Palestine.

  8. yael – no, I oppose all three. Israel needs to be able to develop an economy to pay for (government and private philanthropy, mostly Israelis) its own ambulances, hospitals, universities (which should have more private options), and so on.
    And no, AIPAC doesn’t speak for Israel. It speaks for American Jewish ethnic identity and sells a warped view of a backwards war zone that is damaging to Israel. So, I’ll get rid of that too (but don’t get me wrong, it’s not about politics — I have serious issues with J Street too)
    I live near the Jewish Agency. While some of their programs are good — and should be done by smaller philanthropies — it’s really a big bloated bureacracy that sucks up money but doesn’t function efficiently. Let the philanthropic world compete and let Israelis give and develop an economy that forces them to and creates wealth in Israel.
    But you — Diaspora Judaism, that is — need it, because otherwise, where would your Jewish identity be? And certainly you won’t actually make aliya and help fix the mess that the country is in (and, I’ll give you a hint, Israel’s worst enemy is not the Arabs) — which requires living it and understanding it.

  9. Amechad,
    I agree that the state of Israel would be a much, much better place
    if 100,000 American Jews made aliyah in the next 5 years.
    But, is it not heartening to see Diaspora Jews, on this blog, who relate to Israel? Most American Jews I know don’t give a damn either way.

  10. I’m not arguing against relating to Israel — I’m arguing against getting involved in the politics of a FOREIGN state. That’s my major criticism — and it’s not directed at Danya, who has, at least, lived here for one or two years, but American Jewry in general.
    And if you are going to relate to Israel (which is less of a problem, I admit, for most Jewschool readers) you need to relate to the real Israel, not the myth. That’s not a critique of this specific post, but still an important point.

  11. I actually do live in israel. i immigrated from the US when i was ver young with my family (i am surprised that you use the term “aliya”). That being said, i don’t think so- called diaspora jews need to do anything (i surley don’t think they need to move to ISrael), except for what fits in with their value system.
    I did’t understand where you were coming from and am happy we see eye to eye. I do think that if you are upset with American Jews interfering with ISraeli politics, Jewschool should’t be your first target, but our own government who has manipulated these communities for years.

  12. amechad – exactly. People have no business signing petitions unless they put their best foot forward and move to Israel. They can then participate in the best form of signing a petition – voting. Until then, leave the Israeli decision-making to Israelis.
    And just for the record – Israel would be much better off without outside involvement of ANY kind. Including all American monetary aid, AIPAC and most of what the Jewish Agency does.

  13. yael – I agree with you and I’m not suggesting that every Jew needs to make aliya/immigrate to Israel (I guess I’m still an “idealistic” immigrant after almost 5 years here, ha!) but I think it’s a prereq before getting involved in domestic politics. And, you’re completely right that our own (Israeli) government needs to change the agenda and stop exploiting foreign communities for their own political purposes.
    And you’re right, I don’t meant to criticize Jewschool, but petitions from non-citizens involved in internal Israeli politics really hits a nerve. If you don’t like Lieberman, vote for another party (as I did yesterday).
    LB – Agreed. I oppose foreign aid, but most of the vocal opponents of it are anti-Israel folk. I oppose it because I think it’s bad for Israel.

  14. amechad, i agree with you 100%
    and i imagine you question Jonathan’s remark that we would have a much much better country if 100,000 American Jews immigrated (and definetly not if they made aliya!)

  15. I was about to be sarcastic and thank Danya for respecting “the right of Israeli citizens to elect their own political leadership” but then Amechad said pretty much what I was thinking. Thanks.

  16. Oh everybody grow up. The United States pays Israel’s bills, which means that every US taxpayer has every right to get involved in the internal politics of a foreign government which gets the biggest foreign aid package in the world. As a Jew I’m doing rather well with my Jewish identity without the State of Israel. However, I do have a responsibility to say that my taxes should not be used to support a fascist party which could drag Israel so far to the right that it boggles the mind. If you are unhappy with my getting involved in that “internal” decision, return the money.

  17. when is the world going to stop caring or giving their thoughts re: american elections? Aryeh is right, as long as we pay for the occupation it effects us. As long as our leaders march in lock-step with the system of occupation and the government that perpetuates it, it effects us. How many American ex-pats in Israel still vote in America? Those who say that diaspora Jews should have no say or make aliyah, are yeridim (Israelis who leave) also banned from voicing their opinion? Aryeh’s right; grow up.

  18. Justin and Aryeh – did you not see what people have said?? America can keep its money. We don’t need it. We don’t want it. Alright? Now start treating Israel like a sovereign state and don’t try telling it what’s good for it.

  19. LB-
    I don’t think it comes down to telling Israel what to do. If this was a conversation about any sovereign nation people would have opinions one way or the other, no? I also think that if people like Aryeh or myself actually had a say in American policy, it would look much different. If Israelis started a campaign to wean off of American financial and military aid (and I’ve met a decent number who feel as you do, that it is not completely necessary), I believe they’d find support in some (not most) of the American Jewish community, definitely myself, and perhaps Aryeh (couldn’t speak for him), would be amongst those supporters.
    It seems like you’re saying that people who live in country A (whatever country that may be) have no right to critique and opine on the policies and political happenings of countries B-Z? I have lots of opinions about conflicts and politics all over the world, by your logic wouldn’t it be inappropriate for Americans or Israelis to tell Iran what to do? Or for Americans and South Koreans to tell North Korea what to do? Or Russia? Or China? Or Sudan? Where is the line drawn?

  20. Amechad, Israel’s actions obviously affect diaspora Jews (and lately, not in a good way.) You all are the most visible Jews in the world–in effect you get to be spokespeople for the rest of us. That’s not your choice or mine, but it’s how it is, so we’re going to have opinions.
    I believe I see your point more generally. However, I think it would be better directed at those American Jewish groups responsible for uncritically funneling money to Israel rather than places like Jewschool that are encouraging discussion and criticism, no?

  21. LB writes:
    America can keep its money. We don’t need it. We don’t want it.
    Anyone who advocates for this position in America will be tarred as “anti-Israel”.

  22. The US provides Israel with aid because it suits US strategic posture in the region. A strong Israel is a stabilizing force – it keeps a leash Egypt, protects the monarchy in Jordan, isolates and blocks Syria in Lebanon and provides one piece of a regional counterweight to Iran. All this is in the US interest.
    To deploy an aircraft carrier group in the Mediterranean costs around $2-3 Billion per year. For the same price, the US is able to accomplish much much more. Much of this money, if not most, is channeled back into American manufactured military equipment. I should point out that it is absolutely in the Israeli interest to purchase this military equipment, because Israel lacks the manufacturing base to provide for all of its defense needs.
    The question is, does that $3 Billion dollars (out of an Israel economy approaching $200 Billion GNP) mean that Israel must act like a banana republic, subservient to American interests at the expense of its own? No, and this is not the case. There is considerable give and take in the US-Israeli relationship, and there is no exceptional reason to break that relationship – either financial, political, or military.
    The US is committed to Israel, but an Israel that is able to create coherent policy and execute it. The only reason we are hearing all these rumblings is that successive Israeli governments have failed in war and peace to define Israeli objectives and carry them out to completion. This confusion over Israeli incompetence is creating greater confusion in Washington over what Israel wants, and whether the Jews are playing games.

  23. “America can keep its money. We don’t need it. We don’t want it.”
    LB, I take your point, but the government of the state of Israel regularly indicates that it both needs and wants US money. The “we” you speak of doesn’t include the ruling bodies of the country you live in.

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