Lieberman when he served as Israeli foreign minister, in one of his meetings with then U.S. Secretary of State Clinton
Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus:
“Relax, Israel’s defense minister isn’t calling the shots and Lieberman won’t bomb Egypt. The defense minister is not omnipotent. In reality, he decides much less than most people think he does… Why the panic? This is a democracy, in all its beauty and ugliness. And as a rule, important (and unimportant) decisions aren’t made by one man.
“True, Lieberman doesn’t really understand military issues. But if he could serve as foreign minister, why can’t he be defense minister? Is he less suitable than Isaac Herzog, our sweet little opposition leader who’s being eaten for breakfast by his party colleague, Shelly Yacimovich?”
Haaretz columnist Israel Harel:
“Don’t rush to the bomb shelters, Avigdor Lieberman is harmless He won’t lead Israel into a war; quite the opposite. He’ll want to prove that, contrary to his reputation, he’s a judicious and pragmatic man.
“He won’t lead us into an attack on Iran; he won’t retake Gaza, even though he demanded doing so during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and on other occasions. And he won’t stop the ‘humanitarian’ shipments of cement with which Hamas is rebuilding its tunnels.
“And residents of the largely Arab Wadi Ara area shouldn’t start rejoicing. To their great sorrow, they won’t be transferred to the Palestinian Authority’s jurisdiction, based on Lieberman’s plan, and won’t be able to enjoy the delights of equality in the enlightened Palestinian democracy.
“The responsible ideological right that views the country’s needs from a broad, comprehensive perspective is the group that actually ought to be worried, very worried, by the prospect that these two spineless men, Netanyahu and Lieberman, both devoid of any binding ideology, will be leading the country.”
Bret Stephens, in today’s Wall St Journal:
“In an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times, [an Israeli leftist] went on to suggest that talk of a coup was in the air, though ‘it remains unlikely.’
“The idea of a military coup in today’s Israel is preposterous. But it says something about the arrogance of Mr. Bergman and his military sources that they should think of themselves as impartial guardians of the national interest – as they see it – or that they should so brazenly dismiss the ideological, religious or electoral considerations that are the stuff of democracy. It was Israel’s security establishment, led by talented former officers such as Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, that led Israelis down the bloody cul-de-sac formerly called the peace process. If their views are no longer regarded as sacrosanct, it’s a sign of Israel’s political maturity, not decline.”
1. Alarmist reporting on Lieberman
2. Glick’s views are also more nuanced than reported
3. Even Yossi Beilin now admits the blame is also on the Palestinian side
4. Guess who just got blamed for the Egyptian Airlines crash
5. “Netanyahu against the generals” (By Bret Stephens, Wall St Journal, May 24, 2016)
6. “Relax, Israel’s defense minister isn’t calling the shots” (By Yoel Marcus, Haaretz May 20, 2016)
7. “Don’t rush to the bomb shelters, Lieberman is harmless” (By Israel Harel, Haaretz, May 20, 2016)
8. “Background: Beyond the spins” (By Aaron Lerner, Imra, May 22, 2016)
9. “Netanyahu is using Lieberman to break Israel’s oldest elite: the military” (By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz, May 19, 2016)
10. “Israel’s newest MK: God thought I have things to do in the Knesset” (By Noam Barkan, Yediot, May 22, 2016)
ALARMIST REPORTING ON LIEBERMAN
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
I attach several articles concerning the agreement in Israel to bring the Yisrael Beiteinu party into the governing coalition, and appoint its leader, Avigdor Lieberman, as defense minister.
I am no more a fan of Lieberman becoming Israeli defense minister than many other people, and would have preferred former army chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon to remain in the post, or for it to have been given to center-left opposition leader Isaac Herzog. Herzog was offered to choose someone for the defense post by Netanyahu, but his party refused to join the coalition.
But some of the reporting on Lieberman is unnecessarily alarmist. The articles below are designed to counter-balance some of the attacks on Lieberman published in papers such as The Guardian and New York Times in recent days.
The New York Times news piece from Jerusalem on May 20 by James Glanz and Irit Pazner Garshowitz describes Lieberman as “an ultranationalist”.
Both the text and headline of the New York Times news piece from Jerusalem on May 19 by Isabel Kershner also calls Lieberman as “an ultranationalist”. (Kershner is a well-informed reporter, who I have known personally for 30 years, and it is not impossible that the editors in New York may have inserted the word “ultranationalist”.)
Today’s New York Times editorial also uses the word “ultranationalist” about Lieberman and says his appointment “makes a mockery of any possible Israeli overtures to the Palestinians.”
The Guardian also calls him an “ultranationalist”.
In fact, many views held by Lieberman are to the left of the Likud and other parties in the coalition and the coalition may become less right-wing as a result of his inclusion. For example, as the Washington Post makes clear, Lieberman is on record saying much of the West Bank should be evacuated in the context of a peace deal.
But many of the media just routinely call any new government headed by Netanyahu “the most right-wing ever,” even when this is not true.
Lieberman has already twice served as foreign minister in recent years and certainly has no worse a record than many other recent Israeli foreign ministers. Indeed diplomats I know, including those that subscribe to this list, even those that don’t share Lieberman’s politics, say he was a better foreign minister than others they have served under allowing them to do their job without undue political interference.
GLICK’S VIEWS ARE ALSO MORE NUANCED THAN REPORTED
Ya’alon also announced that he is quitting the Knesset and political life (at least for now).
The next on the Likud list from the last elections who will enter the Knesset in place of Ya’alon is Yehuda Glick, who survived an assassination attempt in Jerusalem in 2014 after he campaigned for Jews to be allowed to pray on Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.
Glick is also being described in western media an absolute extremist. In fact his opinions are much more nuanced as the new interview I attach at the end of this dispatch from Yediot Ahronot, makes clear.
For example, Glick says: “One of the surgeons who operated on me was Muslim, and I think he did a lot more for Islam than the Muslim who shot me in the name of Islam. People who think God wants them to promote hatred are misinterpreting his will.”
He adds: “I’m all for Jews and Muslims visiting the Temple Mount together, but if Prime Minister Netanyahu asks me not to go there, I won’t.”
Glick’s politics, like Lieberman’s defy simplistic labels.
And so in some respects do Netanyahu’s. Which is why the Israeli hard right is so worried he and Lieberman may withdraw from the West Bank – if only the Palestinians would agree to negotiate a peace deal.
Speaking at a meeting of Likud cabinet members on at the start of this week, Netanyahu said he would remain acting foreign minister and continue to work to bring the main center-left opposition party, Zionist Union (Labor), into the coalition and offer the foreign ministry post to Labor leader Isaac Herzog.
Yesterday in a meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls Netanyahu again offered to hold direct talks with Abbas and yet again Abbas refused.
EVEN YOSSI BEILIN NOW ADMITS THE BLAME IS ALSO ON THE PALESTINIAN SIDE
As usual many in the western media place all the blame on Israel for supposedly being reluctant to entering peace talks when in fact it is Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who has done everything possible to thwart negotiations.
Even the most dovish pro-Palestinian of Israeli politicians, Yossi Beilin, has finally come to realize that the Palestinians are also responsible for the lack of a peace agreement.
“You say that it all depends on the Israeli side,” Beilin wrote in an appeal to Palestinian President Abbas in Haaretz (“Dear Abbas, answer Kerry, and establish a Palestinian state now,” May 3), “but the one who can lead the decision toward a two-state solution more than anybody else is you, Mr. President.”
Beilin asks Abbas to accept the parameters that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry proposed and “declare your readiness” to negotiate the implementation of the second stage of the Bush road map that will lead to a Palestinian state within provisional borders.
GUESS WHO JUST GOT BLAMED FOR THE EGYPTIAN AIRLINES CRASH
While western media continue to obsess over Israel’s supposed “ultranationalism” they all but ignore the almost constant incitement against Jews and Israelis. For example, now Egyptian media is blaming Israel for the crash of the Egypt Air A320 passenger jet en route from Paris to Cairo.
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“LIEBERMAN IS NOBODY’S IDEA OF AN IDEAL DEFENSE MINISTER”
Netanyahu Against the Generals
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
May 24, 2016
In 2012 a former New York Times reporter named Patrick Tyler published an invidious book called “Fortress Israel,” the point of which was that the Jewish state is a modern-day Sparta whose “sabra military elite” is addicted to war.
“Six decades after its founding,” Mr. Tyler wrote, Israel “remains in thrall to an original martial impulse, the depth of which has given rise to succeeding generations of leaders who are stunted in their capacity to wield or sustain diplomacy as a rival to military strategy.” Worse, these leaders do this “reflexively and instinctively, in order to perpetuate a system of governance where national policy is dominated by the military.”
Israel’s reflexive militarists are at it again, though probably not as Mr. Tyler imagined. Last week, Moshe Ya’alon, a former army chief of staff and a member of the ruling Likud party, resigned as defense minister following ructions regarding the appropriate role of the military in political life. In his place, the prime minister intends to appoint Avigdor Lieberman, a right-wing political brawler whose military career never went higher than corporal rank.
The spat between the prime minister and Mr. Ya’alon began in late March, after an Israeli soldier named Elor Azariah shot and killed a Palestinian man who was lying wounded and motionless on the ground after trying to stab another soldier. Sgt. Azariah is now standing trial for manslaughter and faces up to 20 years in prison. Video of the killing suggests the wounded Palestinian was no threat to the soldiers when the sergeant put a bullet in his head.
The killing has been emphatically – and rightly – condemned by Israel’s military brass. But Israelis also have little sympathy for Palestinians trying to stick knives into their sons and daughters, and Messrs. Netanyahu and Lieberman have offered expressions of support for Sgt. Azariah and his family, to the applause of the Israeli right and the infuriation of senior generals. As often as not in Israel, military leaders and security officials are to the left of the public and their civilian leadership.
If that were the end of the story, you might have a morality tale about Mr. Netanyahu’s political instincts. Or you might have a story about the high ethical standards to which Israel holds itself. What you don’t have is anything resembling a mindlessly belligerent “sabra military elite” that wants to kill helpless (though not innocent) Palestinians to protect its own.
But that isn’t the end of the story. At a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day earlier this month, Yair Golan, Israel’s deputy chief of staff, compared trends in Israeli society to Germany in the 1930s. When Mr. Netanyahu rebuked him – correctly – for defaming Israel and cheapening the memory of the Holocaust, Mr. Ya’alon leapt to the general’s defense and told officers that they should feel free to speak their minds in public. Hence his ouster.
At stake here is no longer the small question about Sgt. Azariah, where the military establishment is in the right. It’s the greater question of civilian-military relations, where Israel’s military leaders are dead wrong. A security establishment that feels no compunction about publicly telling off its civilian masters is on the road to becoming a law unto itself – the Sparta of Mr. Tyler’s imagination, albeit in the service of leftist goals.
In an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times, Israeli writer Ronen Bergman paints the military in flattering colors, insisting that Israel’s “defense agencies are motivated only by national interest, rather than ideology, religion or electoral considerations.” He went on to suggest that talk of a coup was in the air, though “it remains unlikely.”
The idea of a military coup in today’s Israel is preposterous. But it says something about the arrogance of Mr. Bergman and his military sources that they should think of themselves as impartial guardians of the national interest – as they see it – or that they should so brazenly dismiss the ideological, religious or electoral considerations that are the stuff of democracy. It was Israel’s security establishment, led by talented former officers such as Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, that led Israelis down the bloody cul-de-sac formerly called the peace process. If their views are no longer regarded as sacrosanct, it’s a sign of Israel’s political maturity, not decline.
There’s a larger point here, relevant not only to Israel, about the danger those who believe themselves to be virtuous pose to those who merely wish to be free. In the Middle East, the virtuous are often the sheikhs and ayatollahs, exhorting the faithful to murder for the sake of God. In the West, the virtuous are secular elites imposing what Thomas Sowell once called “the vision of the anointed” on the benighted masses.
Mr. Lieberman is nobody’s idea of an ideal defense minister. And both he and his boss are wrong when it comes to the shameful case of Sgt. Azariah. But those who believe that Israel must remain a democracy have no choice but to take Mr. Netanyahu’s side.
“I’M THE ONE WHO DECIDES, NOT YOU”
Relax, Israel’s defense minister isn’t calling the shots and Lieberman won’t bomb Egypt
By Yoel Marcus
May 20, 2016
The one making the decisions around here isn’t the defense minister, but the prime minister and his testicles – even on security issues. When Moshe Arens sat in the defense minister’s office and planned to bomb Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir picked up the phone and gave him an unpleasant message: “I’m the one who decides, not you.”
Shamir had commanded Lehi, a prestate militia; Arens had been a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. The brilliant operation was aborted.
Arens, who speaks fluent American English, is the one who put Benjamin Netanyahu on the road to becoming our leader, back when “Bibi” was on the road to becoming a naturalized American citizen instead. Since then, Netanyahu has been stuck in us like a nail without a head.
During his early days in politics, Avigdor Lieberman was Netanyahu’s right hand and also his left one – the man who stood at attention when the leader entered the room. They drank together and smoked Cuban cigars. This week, they repeated that exercise in honor of days gone by and the future that awaits them.
Television pundits termed this a “survival plan.” But where’s the pressure? Why the panic? This is a democracy, in all its beauty and ugliness. And as a rule, important (and unimportant) decisions aren’t made by one man.
Calm down, we won’t bomb Egypt’s Aswan Dam just because Lieberman promised to do so at a time when he was criticizing Netanyahu. The defense minister is not omnipotent. In reality, he decides much less than most people think he does.
Likud MK and former minister Benny Begin thinks Lieberman’s appointment is insane. But why? It’s reasonable to assume that Lieberman won’t embroil us in a bloody war like the first Lebanon war of 1982, which Begin’s father leapt into. Nor are Lieberman’s boots any higher than those of the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and current defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, who once said high boots are necessary to survive the vipers at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. Ya’alon is now discovering that the vipers in Jerusalem are even more venomous.
True, Lieberman doesn’t really understand military issues. But if he could serve as foreign minister, why can’t he be defense minister? Is he less suitable than Isaac Herzog, our sweet little opposition leader who’s being eaten for breakfast by his party colleague, Shelly Yacimovich?
Therefore, prepare for the new chorus about Ya’alon, who annoyed Netanyahu, who flirted with Lieberman, who was frightened by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi. How did a former finance minister once put it when he was all at sea? Lunatics, get down from the roof.
“IT IS THE ISRAELI RIGHT WHO SHOULD BE WORRIED”
Don’t rush to the bomb shelters, Avigdor Lieberman is harmless
By Israel Harel
May 20, 2016
Even though the bomb shelters should always be ready – and they definitely aren’t – I have a suggestion for everyone shocked by Avigdor Lieberman’s expected appointment as defense minister: Don’t rush to prepare and stock them. Lieberman, like Menachem Begin in 1977, won’t lead Israel into a war; quite the opposite. He’ll want to prove that, contrary to his reputation, he’s a judicious and pragmatic man.
He won’t lead us into an attack on Iran; he won’t retake Gaza, even though he demanded doing so during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and on other occasions. And he won’t stop the “humanitarian” shipments of cement with which Hamas is rebuilding its tunnels.
“The death penalty for terrorists?” The murderers who have stood trial, who are preparing to kill more Jews when they’re released in the next capitulatory swap for kidnapped Israelis, won’t be hanged.
And residents of the largely Arab Wadi Ara area shouldn’t start rejoicing. To their great sorrow, they won’t be transferred to the Palestinian Authority’s jurisdiction, based on Lieberman’s plan, and won’t be able to enjoy the delights of equality in the enlightened Palestinian democracy.
The issue of “equal rights and obligations for all” also won’t rise from the grave. What’s the value of the lofty political ideas Lieberman dreamed up compared to the great privilege of breaking the defense establishment’s glass ceiling? (After all, the only things that ever whistled past his head were tennis balls, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said.)
Only belonging to the defense establishment – especially by bearing the title “defense minister” – grants true right of entry to the inner sanctum of Israeliness. And no price – which will be paid by Israel’s citizens – is too high for Lieberman to purchase this right.
The military chiefs certainly don’t need to rush to find refuge in the “pit,” as the wartime command center is known. Lieberman will jump through hoops to curry favor with them. Unlike current Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who has personally operated deep behind enemy lines and knows how to weigh the value – and risks – of audacity, Lieberman won’t hasten to approve secret operations lest they fail and endanger his position.
Army Radio, whose closure he once vehemently demanded, will be able to remain the mouthpiece of the enlightened public – as an opposition to the rightist government and the producer of scoops that sabotage construction even in Jerusalem. After all, wasn’t that always its professional vision?
All the NGOs that serve hostile governments and the BDS movement won’t need to go underground either. Lieberman’s promise to make them illegal has exactly the same value as all his other oaths and vows.
Since he’s someone for whom “his word is his word,” other key issues that earned him the votes of hundreds of thousands of Israelis, like the nation-state bill, will also remain in the deep freeze. I would even dare say without irony that the main ideological agreement achieved between Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog – freezing construction in the settlements – will be upheld, with Lieberman’s consent, even by the new “far-right government.” (Just as it is upheld de facto today.)
The Habayit Hayehudi party, in its foolishness, worked to promote this appointment, while the purist, irresponsible left is enabling it. The same goes for settler activists in the ruling Likud party. They think having a settler as defense minister will remove the obstacles to construction and prevent the destruction of communities like Amona. This is a baseless conclusion, and it also, forgive my bluntness, reflects self-centered short-sightedness regarding the country’s overall interests.
Lieberman, to quote Netanyahu again (and the prime minister is projecting from his own character), doesn’t belong to either the right or the left; he isn’t loyal to any ideology or party framework. The responsible ideological right that views the country’s needs from a broad, comprehensive perspective is the group that actually ought to be worried, very worried, by the prospect that these two spineless men, Netanyahu and Lieberman, both devoid of any binding ideology, will be leading the country.
BEYOND THE SPIN
Background: Beyond the spins - some facts about replacement of Defense Minister Yaalon
By Dr. Aaron Lerner
May 22, 2016
#1. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was determined to start this Knesset session with a larger coalition. He did this after finding that with a majority of only 61, individual Likud MKs were blackmailing him.
#2. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon lost his position as defense minister because a condition set by Yisrael Beiteinu to join the ruling coalition was that the head of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, would be minister of defense.
#3. Lieberman has consistently stated that this was his non-negotiable requirement.
#4. Numerous initiatives to replace the Netanyahu government with a coalition headed by someone else - including initiatives from the left - included Avigdor Lieberman as minister of defense.
#5. Some of the same politicians and talking heads now attacking the appointment of Lieberman supported initiatives to oust Netanyahu with Lieberman becoming DM.
#6. Herzog has stated for the record that the deal he was negotiating with Netanyahu included replacing Ya’alon with someone from Herzog’s party. The only difference was that the ouster of Ya’alon was to be postponed for a period. While the logic behind the delay was not explicitly explained, it should be noted that the leaked State Comptroller’s draft report on the 2014 Operation Protective Edge is absolutely devastating against Ya’alon and the leaked security cabinet protocols only paint a worse picture. Thus, it might have been assumed by Herzog-Netanyahu that Ya’alon’s replacement was inevitable.
BIBI “SENDS A CLEAR MESSAGE TO THE ISRAELI MILITARY, TO THE LIKUD AND TO THE UNITED STATES”
Netanyahu is using Lieberman to break Israel’s oldest elite: the military
By Anshel Pfeffer
May 19, 2016
No one on the Israeli political scene knows Benjamin Netanyahu better than Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu knows that – and that’s exactly why he would have preferred Isaac Herzog as his new coalition partner.
Ultimately, however, opted to go with Lieberman after reaching the conclusion that Herzog can barely promise to deliver his own vote in the Knesset and no longer commands the loyalty or obedience of Zionist Union lawmakers. The chairman of the Labor Party has gone – in the space of 14 months – from the great hope, the man who could finally topple Netanyahu, to a leader without a party.
And that leaves Netanyahu with Lieberman – the only man who can offer him a broader, more secure coalition.
Not that Netanyahu trusts Lieberman, of course. Worse still, he fears him. But as far as their interests coincide, he knows that, unlike Herzog, Lieberman can deliver what he promises.
The relationship Netanyahu and Lieberman began on a very different footing. When they first met, Lieberman was a young Likud activist who hitched himself to the rising political star, even serving for a while as unpaid aide.
They had one thing in common: both were outsiders. The Moldovan immigrant, after a decade in Israel still with a heavy Russian accent, and the former ambassador, threatening the Likud “princes” with his American-style campaigning. When Netanyahu was elected leader in the party’s first primaries in 1992, he rewarded Lieberman by putting him in charge of the party apparatus and after a razor-thin victory over Shimon Peres in the 1996 election, the newly elected prime minister he promoted Lieberman to director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office. For the next 18 months, Lieberman was his master’s eyes and ears and his hatchet-man within the Likud.
Where did it go wrong? Why did Lieberman resign after a year and a half? When he founded his new Yisrael Beiteinu party, everyone assumed it was meant to be a satellite party of Likud, designed to draw ‘Russian’ votes for Netanyahu.
But it quickly became clear that Lieberman was now his own master. He would deal with his old boss as an equal from now on, or deal with Netanyahu’s rivals, including Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, whose coalitions he joined.
For the last 13 months, Lieberman has sat on the opposition benches, opting not to join the fourth Netanyahu government. And he finally said what he really thinks about Netanyahu: “A prime minister who can’t make decisions”. That was why left back in 1997, in the middle of Netanyahu’s first term.
They shared the same objectives. They arrived in office together with a nationalist agenda and the burning desire to dismantle the old Israeli elites, just as they had done within Likud. But Lieberman believes that Netanyahu lacked the decisiveness to go all the way, that he was too risk-averse and not sufficiently ruthless.
Lieberman never concealed his goal of joining forces with leaders of other parties, who had also fallen out with Netanyahu, and of ultimately replacing him. But the result of the last election allowed Netanyahu to form a government without him. Just about.
Netanyahu knew, of course, that a coalition with the smallest possible majority leaves him vulnerable to the whims of every backbencher. At the same time, Lieberman - stranded to the right of the government with a tiny number of far-right MKs - found himself marginalized and without any meaningful role. With Herzog failing to deliver, Netanyahu and Lieberman’s interests once again coincide. But this goes deeper than just political expediency. Once again, they are facing up to the old Israeli elites. This time, the oldest and most entrenched of them all: the IDF.
The open conflict between Netanyahu and the IDF’s General Staff, over questions of morals and values in Israel’s struggle against Palestinian violence, put him on a collision course with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon who firmly backed his generals.
Netanyahu’s plan was to use his new coalition deal with the Zionist Union to put the frank defense minister in his place and to show the senior officers who’s the boss.
In all his governments, Netanyahu clashed with the security establishment. He demanded they “change diskette” back in the late 1990s, when he wanted them to abandon the Oslo framework. After he came back to power in 2009, they enraged him by opposing his plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations. This time, he has no intention of backing down.
Ya’alon may or may not lose his job. The deal with Lieberman could still fall through. But the message is clear: Netanyahu will no longer brook any dissent from the military.
Netanyahu has tried, with varying degrees of success to take on the elites: the media, academia, the judiciary and law enforcement and, in Lieberman’s previous stint in government, the diplomatic corps.
If he goes ahead and appoints Lieberman as defense minister, it will be an attempt to storm the last elitist bastion. It may not happen. It’s not just Lieberman’s past statements on bombing Egypt’s Aswan Dam, beheading Arab “traitors” and toppling the Palestinian Authority. He is not temperamentally suited for a position which requires of him to participate in dozens of long weekly meetings supervising some of Israel’s most sensitive organizations and programs. He’s the kind of politician who even as a minister in the past would disappear for weeks abroad, without keeping in touch with his office.
A defense minister simply cannot switch of the mobile phone. Netanyahu is perfectly aware of the panic levels the prospect of Lieberman as defense minister is causing both in the IDF’s central Tel Aviv command center and in foreign capitals. Not least the Pentagon. Maybe that’s all he wants to do: Punish Ya’alon and, for a few days at least, frighten the rogue generals and some skeptical allies. Even if he doesn’t go through with Lieberman’s appointment, he will have shaken the old elite.
“GLICK’S POLITICS ARE TRICKY TO PIN DOWN”
Israel’s newest MK: God thought I have things to do in the Knesset
By Noam Barkan
May 22, 2016
It was only a year and a half ago that right-wing activist Yehuda Glick was dangling between life and death. After being shot point-blank four times by a terrorist, he managed to utter “Shema yisrael” (the Jewish declaration of faith that the devout strive to say before death) before falling into a dark sleep from which he arose ten days later. This week, following Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon’s resignation, Glick is to be sworn in to the Knesset, which will make him perhaps the most controversial MK in the current government, having incited severe criticism from the Palestinians, the left, and the right.
“I feel that God hugged me, and that he didn’t let me go for a minute while my life was in danger, wrapping me up in so much love,” said Glick. “I was in such critical condition that a lot of people thought I wasn’t going to make it, and that if I were, I’d be severely disabled for the rest of my life. And now here I am, standing on my own two feet and being sworn in to the Knesset. God must have thought I still have things to do in the Knesset. I’m glad to be alive and have God put his faith in me.”
Glick’s politics are tricky to pin down. On the one hand, he is considered an extremist who fights for the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount, which could potentially ignite the Middle East and the entire world at large. On the other hand, he is one of the most vocal detractors of Sgt. Elor Azaria, who shot a neutralized terrorist to death earlier this year. His stance earned Glick some new enemies, this time from the right. Glick has also voiced criticism over Yisrael Beytenu Leader Avigdor Lieberman’s appointment as minister of defense and has pushed instead for a unity government with the Labor Party. This is despite the fact that it was Lieberman’s recent agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that facilitated Glick’s entry to the government.
“I understand Ya’alon’s pain,” said Glick. “But I think he shouldn’t have resigned, and I even call upon him now – if there is still a chance – to stay. Ya’alon is an asset to the people of Israel and certainly to Likud.”
Do you recant the things you said about Lieberman?
“I wish him a lot of luck. His success is our success. The position of minister of defense is the most senior position apart from that of the prime minister, and I hope he understands the obligation that comes with it. I also didn’t like the comments Lieberman made against (Zionist Union Leader) Isaac Herzog. (Herzog) tried to do what he thought should be done, but the level of ridicule aimed at him at this point is beyond the pale.”
Glick, 51, vividly remembers October 29, 2014. “I was at an annual event celebrating the Rambam’s visit to the Temple Mount,” he recalled. “The event included a left-wing speaker and a Muslim and invoked a feeling of solidarity and strength. As it was winding down, the only people left were me and two of my friends, Moriah and Shai. My wife Yafi was bringing the car around. I started walking toward the car to load it up, when a short man with a small container stopped next to me. He said, ‘I’m so sorry,’ and since I didn’t understand what he was referring to, I came closer. That was when he pulled out a gun, said, ‘You’re an enemy of Al-Aqsa’ and shot me point-blank with four bullets in the center of my body.
“All four bullets entered and exited my body. I started bleeding. Moriah and Shai ran over to me, and I ran toward them, or rather limped. Then I lay down on the sidewalk. A few seconds later, Shai reached me. I hear Moriah saying, ‘He’s completely pale,’ and Shai saying, ‘We just witnessed a murder. Go take care of Yafi, and I’ll take care of Yehuda.’”
“Shai lay on me, took my shirt off and screamed into my ear something I’ll never forget: ‘Rabbi Yehuda, don’t leave us, we need you.’ That was when I realized I was in mortal danger. Shai was on the phone with a paramedic friend of his, who was guiding him in how to treat me. He was trying to stop the blood when I began to stutter ‘Shema Yisrael.’ They put me in an ambulance, and my wife came in with me and held my hand. She spoke to me while I tried to calm her down. That was when I started losing consciousness.”
Did the assassination attempt change you?
“I suppose it did. It became even clearer to me how dangerous violence can be, and how we as a democracy need to make sure that elected officials working toward certain principles are safe. One of the surgeons who operated on me was Muslim, and I think he did a lot more for Islam than the Muslim who shot me in the name of Islam. People who think God wants them to promote hatred are misinterpreting his will. Despite being all the more committed to the mission God has created me, I feel it has given me a new path for a dialogue with the many people who are willing to listen.”
The Palestinians see you as a symbol for the extreme right, with your entry in to the Knesset together with Lieberman’s new appointment seen as a radical break to the right.
“The Palestinian press is full of attacks against me as a radical Jew. They’re right. I’m very extreme in my belief in peace. I’m extreme in my faith in a respectful dialogue, and that bothers those whose agenda is built on violence and hate. I’ll keep working toward peace as well as human rights for everyone, and I’m sorry for any person who refuses to engage in a dialogue with me.”
The father of eight (two of them foster children) and grandfather of six, Glick, who lives in the settlement of Otniel, has repeatedly enraged Palestinians, left-wing activists and moderate centrists. Over the last few months, he has even managed to anger his friends from the right when expressing his shock at the Hebron soldier who shot a neutralized terrorist. “The fact that the terrorist who set out on this mission didn’t believe he would survive does not justify the soldier’s horrifying actions,” Glick had written on Twitter, adding that, despite the incident, the IDF remains the most moral army in the world.
Not that defending the IDF did him any good. Moments after the tweet went up, the soldier’s supporters already began attacking him. The same day, Glick posted another tweet, saying, “It is grotesque and sickening to see the malicious satisfaction of those who dance upon the blood and protest the IDF following the soldier’s behavior. No less sickening, though, are those who praise his actions.” At this point, his Twitter and Facebook feeds began to fill up with personal threats, among them, “I’ll get you yet, you stinking leftie,” “Too bad they didn’t murder you when you were injured” and “Too bad this is the man we were happy didn’t die.”
Glick’s Facebook cover photo has “We will be victorious at the Temple Mount!” written in bold letters, with his redheaded face appearing in his profile picture below. His father, former dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University, Prof. Shimon Glick, described his son during an interview to Ynet’s sister publication, Yedioth Ahronoth, after his assassination attempt. “We agreed to disagree, and I love him with all my heart,” said the senior Glick, whose political views differ from those of his son.
How does your father, a human rights activist, react to your joining the Knesset?
“My father is a very dear man. I myself am a human rights activist. I’m a very extreme person, who believes in human rights in an extreme way, and I got all that from my father. He is a humanist; he truly loves mankind.”
“We don’t always see eye to eye, but he was the one who taught me Jewish and Western values, which talk about a plethora of opinions. My parents taught me about human dignity, and that you should listen to the opinions of those who don’t necessarily voice your own. The two of us communicate on a daily basis. He advises, encourages, supports and sometimes reprimands me. At times I accept what he tells me and at times I don’t. He respects that.”
What will do as an MK?
“I don’t want to come out with any big declarations yet. Working in the Knesset is a team effort, not a solo one, and I’m going to be part of a wonderful, diverse group called Likud. We have a real democracy complete with distinct opinions. I am entering a government that is headed by a man, who despite what is said about him cares about the country and its people. I hope that I’ll act in a cordial and open manner, and enter into a dialogue with people from all walks of life, both from the coalition and the opposition. I hope to be a part of promoting peace.”
Glick continued, “I was elected to represent the Judea and Samaria region, and as their representative I am committed to doing anything to improve the security and quality of life in the area. There are half a million citizens living in the area (Jewish citizens. – NB) who should all have equal rights, and I hope we will figure out how to cohabitate in peace with the Arabs living with us.”
Will you visit the Temple Mount as an MK?
“I hope so. I’m all for Jews and Muslims visiting the Temple Mount together, but if Prime Minister Netanyahu asks me not to go there, I won’t.”
You said the Temple Mount will be a center for peace.
“That’s our goal, and the vision of the Jewish spirit. The Temple Mount is supposed to be the place out of which the message of ‘They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, neither shall they learn war any more’ should come out.”