This is a revolution, no less. If Avigdor Liberman wins enough seats to be the deciding factor, Israel is facing a dramatic upheaval. No more coalition that represents a minority; no more ultra-Orthodox coercion. No more trampling of the majority, but rather a boost to majority rule and democracy.
During the long weeks in which Benjamin Netanyahu tried to form a coalition government, the political observers and pundits did not take Liberman seriously.
“He did not mean it,” they said of his demand that Netanyahu pass legislation on drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the army. “It was an exercise in extortion,” they all agreed. After all, it’s just politics. But he meant it then and we should take him seriously now.
In a background conversation with Liberman not long ago at all, I heard about the direction he believed Israel was travelling in. I was skeptical, refused to believe it as he listed things that most Israelis were sick of.
It seems that he is enjoying his new-found status of a man whose word is his bond.
But what does it matter? If anyone wants to question the purity of Liberman’s intentions, they are welcome to do so. But his intentions are less important – what matters is the outcome. And it is a desirable one.
Liberman may have had just five Knesset seats to offer during the coalition negotiations, compared to the 18 held by the ultra-Orthodox parties, but his demands have an absolute majority among the Israel the public – including on the right and in the national-religious camp.
Most of the public is tired of the fact that we live under minority rule and not a democracy. The majority was trampled because the need to include the Haredim in the framework of a coalition became axiomatic. Liberman is trying to prove that there is another way.
This is not about keeping one’s election pledges, for Liberman’s announcement Saturday evening was a change in tack. There will be no more automatic support for Netanyahu, but rather backing for a unity government led by the party wins the most votes. This change can be only explained by one reason: Liberman feels that the Netanyahu regime is wobbling.
He reads the polls, and he sees that there has been a shift. Now there is disgust with Netanyahu on the right, too. Rightists have also come to the conclusion that a foregone surrender to the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Tkuma runs contrary to the national interest. Such a surrender may be good for Netanyahu, but it’s bad for Israel.
What Likud bigwigs are saying off the record, other right-wingers are saying on social media: Netanyahu might still be an asset, but his stock is declining.
Make no mistake, Liberman was and still is a right-winger to the bone, and his demands represent the right-wing camp more than most of its MKs. There is a constant gulf between what most Israelis want and the results of the elections.
It is possible for Liberman to narrow this divide, and the prospect of this happening will infuse new energy into the second election campaign of the year. If he manages not to make any mistakes, he could well be the surprise of the elections. More importantly, he represents the national interest and promises to make it a reality.
In the meantime, it is all just words, but he has proven it is worth taking him seriously.
Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet News