Israel is the land of opportunity. One great example of this statement is the story of Avigdor Liberman, head of Israel Beytenu. He made Aliya with his parents on 1978 at the age of 20. On his second day in Israel he started working at Ben Guriun Airport as a baggage handler. Years later, Liberman served as Israel’s Minister of Transportation, Israel’s Minister of Critical Infrastructure, Israel’s Minister of Forign Affairs, and he just finished a two and a half years term as Israel’s Minister of Defense. Overall he is involved in Israeli politics for more than 20 years. Olim who make Aliya, can certainly get inspired by the story of Liberman and understand that Israel is the land of opportunity.
After years of being a major player in Israeli politics, it could be said in certainty, that Liberman is unique in the Israeli political map. Liberman is an idealistic Zionist, he sees himself as an Ole, and remembers what life was for him and his family when they came to Israel. He has significant social awareness and cares for the Israeli society, he cares for Israel and has the ability to make decisions based on ideology and principle and not based on personal gains. His experience in politics, and at the Knesset and government, and his experience in the global arena, should not be taken for granted.
A few of Liberman’s decisions throughout the years can show how his mind and heart work. Just a few examples:
- Living in Nokdim
Liberman lives with his family in a settlement called Nokdim, which is located in the Gush Etzion regional jurisdiction, south of Bet Lechem. They were one of the first families living there and have bbeen living there for almost 30 years. It is considered to be a “mixed” community where religious and non-religious families live together and raise their kids together, with respect and understanding. Living in a settlement, and not in Raanana, Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv, can also show how Liberman relates to the question of “Eretz Israel” and the connection of the people of Israel to the Jewish historical homeland.
- The Goosh Katif Decision
Liberman joined Ariel Sharon’s government after Sharon said that “the status of Netzarim’s is like the status of Tel Aviv…”. Netzarim was one of the settlements in Gush Katif, at times being the most attacked settlement over there. This approach by Sharon, telling Israeli society that we will never give up Netzarim, as it became a symbol of Israeli resistance to the terror attacks it suffered, allowed Liberman to join Sharon’s government. But when Sharon, came up with his “disengagement” plan, deciding to demolish the Gush Katif and all its towns and villages, giving it all to the Palestinians, Liberman and all of the Israel Beytenu ministers, resigned from the government showing their dissatisfaction of this radical move by Ariel Sharon.
- Entering Netanyahu’s Government
When Netanyahu asked Liberman to join his government on 2015, Liberman had two main conditions. Liberman asked to become the minister of Defense, and he also asked that elderly who were not eligible for pension payments, would receive higher “Elderly Wage” from the Bituach Leumi. This condition improved the lives of 400,000 elderly. Liberman’s at that point could have asked anything from Netanyahu, but the fact that he put all his pressure in order to improve the lives of so many people can really show how he relates to his position as a political leader in Israel, and how he relates to the term “solidarity” and to the Israeli society.
- As Minister of Defense
As minister of Defense, Liberman made some very important decisions. In his term, Israel increased its ties with the Russian military, allowing Israel a wider ability to take actions against the Iranian presence in Syria. It was just announced that he played a major role, together with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with regards to working with the Russian government, bringing back the body of Zhecharia Baumel Z”L, an Israeli soldier lost at war 37 years ago. He established a new Rockets Unit in the IDF, increasing its ability to take protective measures against any threat (easing some of the pressure from the Israeli Air Force), he moved defense factories from the Gush Dan area to Carmiel and to Arad, he increased the monthly wages soldiers receive every month for personal spending, and together with his MKs from Israel Beytenu, he provided lone soldiers assistance with monthly rent funding, after their service, so they can stay in Israel and establish their lives here after their military service.
- Leaving the Ministry of Defense
Liberman resigned from the ministry of Defense, and he explained his decision by saying that he couldn’t agree with the approach of the government which took a passive approach with regards to the aggression of Hamas. Specifically his decision to resign was made after Hamas launched 500 rockets, within 48 hours, against the southern part of Israel (the Sderot region), and the Israeli government decided to take a passive approach. Liberman on the other end was demanding that Israel will take a hard stand against Hamas in order to preserve our deterrence, which is so essential in this region. Liberman also objected to the permission Israeli government gave to the transfer of 90 million US dollars from Qatar to Hamas.
- Solving the Religious Secular Tension
Liberman has great respect to the Jewish traditions, identity, and history. People don’t know, but Israel Beytenu, has a Chabad Rabbi, serving as its unofficial Chief Rabbi for many years. Knowing that the majority of the people leaving in Israel are not religious, Liberman acts by the motto of “live and let live”. He is the only political leader that comes from the right, that is also representing secular causes. He promised to put all his political pressure, so the issue of more equal military service of everyone in Israel is solved (a bill he promoted as Minister of Defense, and which received the approval of the IDF, and of political parties from political parties from all sides), he also promised: to allow civil marriage in Israel, to make sure that the conversion process in Israel more welcoming and more human, to allow more public transportation on Shabbat, and to allow local municipalities to decide which and how many commercial places would be open or closed on Shabbat. He always says that he will never allow the opening of grocery stores in Bnei Brak, but if some neighborhoods in other cities wish to have some stores open, this should be permitted to them.
The above can show who is Liberman, what he stands for and what decisions he made in the past. His experience is something that needs to be appreciated, as the Israeli political generation is shifting and new faces will be a part of Israel’s political map for the years to come. His background as an Ole, making it in Israel, taking a proactive approach, aiming to be a part of the most important bodies in Israeli political systems, and make Israel better, is something all Olim can learn from and get inspired from.
Disclaimer: Shahar Alon is a member of Israel Beytenu, and is on their list from Knesset.