Israel’s immediate and unprecedented return to elections is the fault of no one other than Benjamin Netanyahu. In seeking to deflect this blame, Bibi is overreaching by attempting to label Avigdor Lieberman as a leftist to the point of ridicule. The idea that a settler from Nokdim who has championed political causes ranging from loyalty oaths for non-Jews to capital punishment (with many other harsh and deplorable stances in between) is a leftist will likely prove to be too absurd for even some of Likud’s own supporters, let alone the right-wing at large. And still, given the alternative of admitting that these elections were for the sole purpose of gaining immunity for Netanyahu, for now this remains the party’s preferred route.
Fearing the ire of Israeli voters, and likely out of a sense of political revenge, the Likud has since honed this message to read that Lieberman has attempted to prevent or bring down right-wing governments on no less than three occasions including this latest, thus making him an agent of the left. The revisionism that went into this messaging should prove astonishing to those with some memory of the past four years of Israeli politics but for all others, a refresher:
During the period of coalition formation following the elections of 2015, Avigdor Lieberman resigned his post of foreign minister and took his party to the opposition. Far from voicing support for the Zionist Camp to form the government however, Lieberman attacked the Likud for not being right-wing enough. As a result, his party would in the opposition for a year prior to joining the government during which time Bibi continued attempts to entice the left-of-center Zionist Union into his coalition. In fact, it was the Jewish Home party that nearly pushed the country back into elections then, agreeing to join mere hours before the deadline, though “smearing” them as leftists would be equally as laughable.
Lieberman’s later withdrawal from the coalition at the end of 2018, shortly after having compared the IDF’s command to the Peace Now organization, was announced with right-wing consternation as he slammed the government for capitulation to Hamas. Although the move opened wounds in the coalition, it was again the Jewish Home party, led by non-leftists Bennett and Shaked, that sought to capitalize on the situation by attempting to demand the defense ministry. Bibi yet managed to stabilize his coalition by alluding to the need to conduct a military operation against Hezbollah tunnels, and at such a remarkably fortunate time. The parties of the coalition would go on to reach an amicable agreement to dissolve the coalition several weeks later following disagreements surrounding the Haredi draft law. It is notable, however, that this dissolution came suspiciously prior to the ending of the military operation which had initially been cited as so necessary in maintaining the coalition.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s principle motivation for months now has been to avoid prosecution. He chose to call elections when he understood that the investigations into his alleged crimes were wrapping up and that indictments were forthcoming. In this same spirit, it was he who chose to return Israel to a second round of elections instead of either agreeing to step down in the event of indictment, as would likely have been needed to form a national unity government. It was also he who chose to bypass Israel’s election laws which would have saw another member of Knesset be offered the opportunity to form a government following his own failure. In seeking to delay his prosecution, Bibi has plunged the country into political instability that is costing the Israeli taxpayers millions. Let there be no doubt that attempts to paint anyone else to blame will be met with increasing derision from even the Likud’s most loyal. And as for Avigdor Lieberman, whether in the coalition or the opposition, the right wing can keep him.