Ran Zev Schijanovich

It Takes Three to Tango — Bibi, Lieberman and Me

In the previous elections held in February 2009, I voted Likud, i.e., for Benjamin Netanyahu.  The aftermath of the disengagement from Gaza (which at the time I wholeheartedly supported), in which Israel received a neighboring terrorist enclave ruled by Hamas in return for its dramatic act of reconciliation with the Palestinian people, caused me to move to the right of the political spectrum regarding issues of security as it relates to the Palestinian question.  Gaza was intended to become a model of Palestinian nation-building, leading to the establishment of trust.  The transfer of full control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians was supposed to serve as a stepping stone for the removal of settlements from the West Bank and the official establishment of a Palestinian state. Instead, what has taken place in Gaza over the last seven years has served as a test-case as to why further territory should not be relinquished to the Palestinians.

Following the announcement of early elections (scheduled to be held on January 22, 2013), for me the issue of who I would vote for in this round was a no-brainer — Likud.  In my eyes, Bibi had proven himself as clearly the most responsible and adept leader on the Israeli political scene.  Notwithstanding his well-deserved reputation as being an expert political player, I believe his decisions over the course of his latest stint as Prime Minister were by and large motivated by what he sincerely believes is in the best interest of the nation.  This in contrast to many of the other big political players.  As a case in point, Tzipi Livni, as acting leader of the opposition for most of Bibi’s premiership, took every opportunity to bash Netanyahu, regardless of whether his position or actions on any particular issue were correct or not.  Her conduct evinced the height of irresponsibility, seeking to damage Bibi’s reputation at every turn as if this act by itself was the highest value without connection to what was in the best interest of Israel.

For example, Livni continuously blamed Netanyahu as being responsible for Israel’s increasing isolation in the world.  Livni held the post of Foreign Minister during the Second Lebanon War and the Gaza Operation (Cast Led) during which times Israel suffered deeply unfair condemnation and was demonized by the world media.  It was therefore the height of hypocrisy for Livni to lay responsibility on Bibi for Israel’s isolation and unpopularity, when from personal experience she should know better than anyone that the rule tends to be that Israel can do no right in the eyes of the world.

Livni blamed Bibi for the stagnated peace process, this in spite of the fact that it is Abbas that has repeatedly refused to come to the negotiating table.  During Kadima’s ruling coalition government, they did not have to deal with the consequences of President Obama’s grievous strategic error of causing the halting of any building inside of settlements (including East Jerusalem neighborhoods) to become a condition for continued negotiations.

Livni blamed Bibi for the perceived deterioration in relations with the U.S., including supporting false accusations that Netanyahu was meddling in the Presidential election.  Actually, it was President Obama who sought to create daylight between Israel and the U.S. during the earlier part of his term in his misguided effort to increase U.S. credibility in the Muslim world.

Livni accused Bibi of not properly handling the Iran crisis by engaging in fear-mongering and being too public when he should have worked quietly behind the scenes. But it is Netanyahu’s persistent will to press the Iran issue to the U.S. administration and to the world that has placed Iran’s nuclear program at the top of the international agenda and led to the imposition of sanctions.

Livni made it a habit to criticize Bibi not only within Israel, but also to the international media.  On many occasions when Israel was being unfairly attacked and demonized by the world, when there was a need for a united front, Livni and other members of the opposition actively contributed to the chorus of world-wide condemnation due to their personal distaste for Netanyahu.  Thus, instead of placing the interest of our nation first, they put petty politics and ad hominem attacks first.

It is in the context of the above that I unequivocally planned on voting for Bibi Netenyahu in the next round of upcoming elections.  But then Bibi pulled a big rabbit out of his hat through his announcement last week that Likud and Leiberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu were to join forces for the purposes of the formation of the next government and would run under the same ticket in the upcoming elections as Likud-Beiteinu.

Now, if I want to give my vote to Likud and provide Bibi with the mandate to continue to lead the nation, I am coerced to vote for Lieberman as well.  This does not sit well with me.  I have no interest in voting for Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party.  Although I may not disagree on various issues with Avigdor Lieberman, I perceive him to be a figure who is willing to use incitement for the purpose of garnering more votes and adding more mandates to his party.  For example, his proposition in the last elections that Israeli Arabs should be forced to pledge loyalty to Israel in order to retain their Israeli citizenship, beside from being wrong, was designed to garner further support for his party by the cynical use of base demagoguery.  Understanding that most (if not all) politicians are driven by personal ambition, I sense Lieberman’s personal ambition and drive to rise to the top of the political pyramid crosses a red line.

I do not know if it has yet been stated, but I would not dismiss the possibility that popular Likud minister Moshe Kahlon became aware of Bibi’s plan to join forces with Lieberman before the fateful announcement, and that this was the reason for his equally unexpected resignation from his Likud Knesset seat.

The result of Bibi’s decision to join forces with Lieberman, as it relates to me personally, is that Bibi is no longer assured of receiving my vote.  Presently I do not know which party will be the recipient of my vote.  And if Bibi’s latest political maneuver has led to the potential loss of my vote, I can reasonably infer that there are many others like me out there.  Soon enough we will know if Bibi got a little bit too smart this time and shot himself in the foot.

About the Author
Ran Zev Schijanovich was born in Israel in 1970 to an Argentinian father and American mother, lived in Argentina through age 11, and then moved to New York. He made aliyah in 2005 and served as a combat soldier in Golani from the ages of 36 to 38. Ran is graduate of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.