A morally and politically dysfunctional Government…writes Isi Leibler

May 22, 2016 by Isi Leibler
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The recent shenanigans of the government sickened even those reconciled to the reality that a total lack of ethics pervades the Israeli political arena.

Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler

Benjamin Netanyahu has succeeded in consolidating his government and may have ensured that it will survive its full term of office – making him the longest presiding Prime Minister of Israel.

In this case, Netanyahu was not being Machiavellian. Like any politician, understandably his principal objective was to increase his paper-thin majority in order to retain power. But there is little doubt that his objective was also to create a government that reflected the unity of the nation in terms of security issues and which our adversaries and allies alike could not dismiss as extreme right-wing. I believe that he genuinely desired to incorporate Zionist Union or the bulk of its parliamentarians into his government. But ultimately he realised – as Herzog himself subsequently conceded – that he was unable to gain the support of the Labour party. Even if Herzog delivered a number of Labour MKs, the coalition would be highly unstable and likely to break up at any time.

Avigdor Lieberman, realising that his political future was at risk if he remained in opposition, signaled his political arch enemy that he was willing to join the government and in less than 24 hours, the deal was cobbled together.

Netanyahu saved his government by this volte farce. But it may yet prove to be a Pyrrhic victory.

As the global community prepares to exert more pressure – including UN Security Council Resolutions designed to coerce us into accepting indefensible borders – we will be perceived as having an even more extreme right-wing government. This will undoubtedly be exploited by President Obama as justification for not employing the US veto to anti-Israeli Security Council resolutions.

On the domestic level, Netanyahu’s cavalier treatment of his former political allies leaves a very bitter taste.

The manner in which Moshe Ya’alon was displaced as Defense Minister by Lieberman was almost surrealistic. When Lieberman served as Foreign Minister he abused his position and misrepresented Israel. To appoint him as Defense Minister, possessing no military experience whatsoever, is grossly unsuitable and reminiscent of the disasters associated with Amir Perez.

In contrast, Moshe Ya’alon was an exemplary Defense Minister who was considered a man of exceptional integrity, one of the few who was renowned for promoting the national interest rather than personal ambitions. His absence from the next Security Cabinet is a great loss for our national security.

Ya’alon – one of Netanyahu’s loyal allies over many years – was thoroughly humiliated and the result was that he exploded and, despite the belated offer of Foreign Minister, resigned from the government and Knesset announcing he would later return to politics and become a contestant for the leadership.

How has this impacted on domestic politics? The country’s biggest loss is Ya’alon whose wise advice and military knowledge is irreplaceable . The other loser is Bugie Herzog who genuinely sought to bring Zionism back into the Labour Party and marginalise the leftists who have hijacked his party. To this end, he fought his own party colleagues but failed to create a national unity government.

The big winner, aside from Lieberman, will be Yair Lapid who will benefit immensely and is likely to represent an alternative leadership at the next elections.

The haredim are also delighted because Lieberman, in his thirst for power, had no problem in suspending his passionate commitment to introduce reforms to break the stranglehold of the ultra-orthodox in relation to conversion, marriage and the draft.

There are several questions being asked. What price will Netanyahu pay for consolidating his leadership? Internationally, he may face even tougher diplomatic pressures with a retiring US president reputed to be seeking to isolate Israel as his farewell legacy.

How will he cooperate with Lieberman who, until very recently displayed outright personal animus towards him?

Yet, Lieberman is no fool. Despite portraying himself as a vulgar tough hawk, he has in the past displayed pragmatism, frequently and unexpectedly reversing his position. Perhaps he will surprise us, cooperate with the prime minister and prove to be a competent Defense Minister. But we should not hold our breath.

Despite our exasperation over this latest behavior of our politicians, there has been no fundamental change to the government policies. There remains a solid consensus favoring separation from the Palestinians – provided we retain defensible borders and find a genuine Palestinian peace partner.

Isi Leibler lives in Jerusalem. He is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.



5 Responses to “A morally and politically dysfunctional Government…writes Isi Leibler”
  1. David singer says:


    If you think it is bad in Israel – spare a thought for Australia where Prime Ministers have been removed with monotonous regularity by being backstabbed by their own parliamentary colleagues and where Australia has been virtually ungovernable for about the last eight years because of a hostile Senate.

    Sacking the Senate, calling fresh elections and introducing a new voting regime to try and get a Senate that will reflect the Government in the Lower House is now our fate as we go through eight weeks of electioneering torture to probably change nothing.

    At least Netanyahu has been able to govern for the last 15 months with his wafer thin majority of one – defying all the “experts” who said he could not do it. Now he is set to govern until the next elections are due. Who knows – he may yet get Zionist Union to join a unity Government and provide a united front against the likes of Obama, Kerry and a hostile UN.

    Would that Netanyahu could turn sworn enemies like the PLO and Hamas into partners for peace as he has managed to do in reconciling with Lieberman.

    The regrettable loss of Yaalon by his spitting the dummy has surely been balanced by greater stability for the Government and more effective functioning of the State.

    • Henry Herzog says:

      Spot on Mr Leibler: How stupid is Netanyahu replacing Yaalon with Lieberman. I mean, as foreign minister Lieberman was a constant embarrassment to Israel or his ultra nationalist out-bursts. And he certainly can’t be trusted in defence. Only good thing, if Trump becomes US president, they’ll have a lot in common.

      I had no idea, Mr Singer, that Obama and Kerry were enemies of Israel; this could even explain why the US gives Israel so much in aid.

      • David Singer says:


        Read what I wrote about Obama and Kerry in January 2014 and I will be happy to discuss the matter further with you.

        Money is not everything – sticking to commitments made by an American President to an Israeli Prime Minister as overwhelmingly endorsed by the Congress far surpasses dollars and cents.

        Obama and Kerry’s attempts to squirm out of Bush’s solemn commitments to Israel to procure Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza is scandalous.

        • Henry Herzog says:

          David, just read your piece of 2014; So Bush wrote Sharon a letter, and a pretty skimpy one at that. But that was a while ago, and as you say, even Bush back tracked on what he said.
          Things have changed significantly since then. But rather than attack Obama and Kerry on that issue, what about the deals they and the Turnbull government are making with Iran. A far more immediate danger than conspiracies theories about Obama and Kerry, don’t you think?

          • david singer says:

            Bush’s letter “skimpy”? Did you actually read it?

            Here is the full text to make sure you do.

            Bush’s letter was overwhelmingly endorsed by the House of Representatives 407-9 on 23 June 2004 and the Senate 95-3 the next day.

            “Letter From President Bush to Prime Minister Sharon
            His Excellency
            Ariel Sharon
            Prime Minister of Israel

            Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

            Thank you for your letter setting out your disengagement plan.

            The United States remains hopeful and determined to find a way forward toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. I remain committed to my June 24, 2002 vision of two states living side by side in peace and security as the key to peace, and to the roadmap as the route to get there.

            We welcome the disengagement plan you have prepared, under which Israel would withdraw certain military installations and all settlements from Gaza, and withdraw certain military installations and settlements in the West Bank. These steps described in the plan will mark real progress toward realizing my June 24, 2002 vision, and make a real contribution towards peace. We also understand that, in this context, Israel believes it is important to bring new opportunities to the Negev and the Galilee. We are hopeful that steps pursuant to this plan, consistent with my vision, will remind all states and parties of their own obligations under the roadmap.

            The United States appreciates the risks such an undertaking represents. I therefore want to reassure you on several points.

            First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in the roadmap. The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan. Under the roadmap, Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. The Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. Palestinians must undertake a comprehensive and fundamental political reform that includes a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.

            Second, there will be no security for Israelis or Palestinians until they and all states, in the region and beyond, join together to fight terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations. The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.

            Third, Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions against terrorist organizations. The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means. The United States understands that after Israel withdraws from Gaza and/or parts of the West Bank, and pending agreements on other arrangements, existing arrangements regarding control of airspace, territorial waters, and land passages of the West Bank and Gaza will continue. The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.

            As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.

            I know that, as you state in your letter, you are aware that certain responsibilities face the State of Israel. Among these, your government has stated that the barrier being erected by Israel should be a security rather than political barrier, should be temporary rather than permanent, and therefore not prejudice any final status issues including final borders, and its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.

            As you know, the United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent, so that the Palestinian people can build their own future in accordance with my vision set forth in June 2002 and with the path set forth in the roadmap. The United States will join with others in the international community to foster the development of democratic political institutions and new leadership committed to those institutions, the reconstruction of civic institutions, the growth of a free and prosperous economy, and the building of capable security institutions dedicated to maintaining law and order and dismantling terrorist organizations.

            A peace settlement negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians would be a great boon not only to those peoples but to the peoples of the entire region. Accordingly, the United States believes that all states in the region have special responsibilities: to support the building of the institutions of a Palestinian state; to fight terrorism, and cut off all forms of assistance to individuals and groups engaged in terrorism; and to begin now to move toward more normal relations with the State of Israel. These actions would be true contributions to building peace in the region.

            Mr. Prime Minister, you have described a bold and historic initiative that can make an important contribution to peace. I commend your efforts and your courageous decision which I support. As a close friend and ally, the United States intends to work closely with you to help make it a success.

            George W. Bush”

            Things sure have changed – for the worst – since Bush wrote his letter in 2004 that make it more imperative that America continue to honour these Presidential and Congress endorsed commitments.

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