Avigdor Lieberman: the Putin Model Israel is in Dire Need Of
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Putin. At the same time, there’s something to be said for his policy of disregarding world opinion in favor of the best interests of his
people. Putin has gained international acclaim for placing the interests of Russian nationals in the Ukraine, the Baltic States, Georgia and other former Soviet republics above his concern for how the West regards Russia.
He has also nationalized broad sectors of the economy, highhandedly doing away with a class of Russian oligarchs who had been feasting on pieces of the former Soviet pie, divvying up key industries among themselves and growing fat off the profits. It’s true that some of this nationalized money has ended up in Kremlin coffers (including Putin’s pockets), but at least some of it has gone back to the people. Putin has also heralded a return to Russian national values such as the worship of G-d and a revulsion towards homosexuality. Many see him as a type of man-god who can do no wrong.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has often been compared to Vladimir Putin. Israelis see him as a figure of power who takes American demands with a shaker of salt. Those who have voted for him have done so because they felt that Israel needs a strong leader to lead the country against an unprecedented array of security threats, including ISIS, Hamas and Iran. At the height of Operation Protective Edge, Lieberman voiced the opinion that Israel should re-occupy the entire Gaza Strip. Whether he meant this or not is insignificant. What’s important is that Lieberman is the only alternative to a cunning and powerful Netanyahu. Bibi has gained the public’s trust and respect through his ability to maneuver his way out of the most daunting situations.
Lieberman has climbed the political ladder by learning the ropes from none other than his mentor: Benjamin Netanyahu. He has come a long way since being one of Sharansky’s deputies in Yisrael B’Aliya, mastering the art of resolute diplomacy, and has excelled as Foreign Minister under Netanyahu. In the echelons of Israeli politics, the only direction he can go from here is up. I predict that just as Sharon stole the show in 2002 following Barak’s inability to squash the Second Intifada, Lieberman will be ushered into power by a wave of right-wing indignation at Bibi’s inability to squash Hamas. The summer of 2014 will mark major turning point in Israel’s political trajectory.
The equivalence to Putin is not absolute, since Lieberman hardly matches the Russian dictator in autocratic force and lack of consideration for Western values. Perhaps this is because he is the Foreign Minister of a tiny Israel while Putin is the Emperor of Mother Russia. Maybe it’s because he lacks some of Putin’s charisma and leadership ability. Only time will tell. Even if Lieberman isn’t elected in ’16, it’s more than likely that as more Russian Jews arrive in Israel and the threat of global terrorism increases, this self-made political genius will eventually lead the Jewish State rather than just represent it.