Avigdor Lieberman, who was forced to resign as foreign minister when he was indicted for fraud and corruption, wants his old job back, and he can have it if he stays out of the slammer, Israeli media are reporting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will hold the portfolio until his Yisrael Beiteinu partner is exonerated.
Lieberman earlier told Israel’s Channel 2, “This was a done deal before the elections.”
It was a smack down to Yair Lapid, the brash newcomer who has said he sees himself becoming prime minister as soon as 18 months from now. Lapid, the head of the second largest party in last month’s elections, Yesh Atid, reportedly wanted the foreign ministry, but may have to settle for the Finance Ministry or the Defense Ministry, according to Yisrael Hayom, the Sheldon Adelson paper that usually reflects Netanyahu’s thinking.
Lieberman had earlier said Lapid was too inexperienced to be the nation’s top diplomat. He knows something of what he speaks. There has rarely been an Israeli foreign minister so unqualified from the day he was named to the day he quit, and held in such low esteem by the professionals in his ministry and foreign leaders. His ally and friend, the prime minister, surely recognized that since he kept the major portfolios – United States, Britain, France, Germany among others – for himself and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and left the lesser accounts to Lieberman. Even President Shimon Peres handled a share of the sensitive diplomatic missions.
Lieberman wasn’t taken seriously by world leaders. Although they may have politely taken his calls or met with him, but when it came to serious discussions and policy decisions they went to Netanyahu and Barak.
Another reason Lieberman, who was a failure and often an international laughing stock in the job, may oppose Lapid getting the post, besides the fact that he’d like it back, may be that Lapid was endorsed by his former deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon. Lieberman unceremoniously dumped Ayalon without explanation from the party’s ticket in the recent election.
Ayalon, the former ambassador to Washington, said his old boss’ penchant for insulting friends and allies and his undiplomatic style led him to be “treated as a leper” by world leaders. He told an interviewer he wouldn’t repeat what he’d heard said of Lieberman, but at that point he didn’t have to.
Lieberman shot back, “It got to the point where I no longer trusted him.” Ayalon had his share of self-inflicted wounds, notably his public humiliation of the Turkish ambassador in 2010 that exacerbated a growing crisis in relations between former allies.
Lieberman was indicted in December on charges of fraud and breach of public trust and forced to resign. He has waived his parliamentary immunity. Charges stemmed in party from ordering Ayalon to appoint a Lieberman friend to an ambassadorship as payment for favors. Ayalon is expected to be a witness for the prosecution in his old boss’ trial.