Meet Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s new power player

The consensus view seems to be that the Likud Party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, will be the big winner in the next week’s Israeli elections, a development that has peace advocates in the United States nervous, given the positions Netanyahu has taken over the years and his performance as prime minister during the 1990s. But ...

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The consensus view seems to be that the Likud Party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, will be the big winner in the next week's Israeli elections, a development that has peace advocates in the United States nervous, given the positions Netanyahu has taken over the years and his performance as prime minister during the 1990s.

But a more troubling development may be the continuing rise of far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman (above). Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party seems likely to pick up another five seats and may wind up with more seats than the Labor Party. Given how Israeli coalition politics works, Lieberman seems perfectly positioned for an influential role in a Netanyahu government.

The Moldovan-born Lieberman is famous for his inflammatory statements and aggressive style. My colleague Becky Frankel recommends this 2007 profile of Lieberman from her old magazine Moment, in which Lieberman lays out his view of the contemporary Middle East:

The consensus view seems to be that the Likud Party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, will be the big winner in the next week’s Israeli elections, a development that has peace advocates in the United States nervous, given the positions Netanyahu has taken over the years and his performance as prime minister during the 1990s.

But a more troubling development may be the continuing rise of far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman (above). Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party seems likely to pick up another five seats and may wind up with more seats than the Labor Party. Given how Israeli coalition politics works, Lieberman seems perfectly positioned for an influential role in a Netanyahu government.

The Moldovan-born Lieberman is famous for his inflammatory statements and aggressive style. My colleague Becky Frankel recommends this 2007 profile of Lieberman from her old magazine Moment, in which Lieberman lays out his view of the contemporary Middle East:

There is no ‘new’ Middle East,” he tells me. Lieberman rejects outright the notion of a contained Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to him, “whoever thinks so, is plain stupid. We face an existential threat. It’s really about the survival of the fittest, and with neighbors like Syria, Iraq and even Egypt, we have to be realistic. We are not, being Jewish. It is a genetic disease. When Hitler came to power, we chose to look the other way. That’s now the attitude toward [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. There is no difference between him and Hitler, and we fail to understand it. That’s pathological behavior.”

I guess “realistic” is one way to describe that way of looking at things. 

Photo: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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