The past two days have been the craziest days I can remember in this country in terms of politics, and they certainly have not ended well. I try to write at least one column a week for Newsweek even when the news is slow. Yesterday morning I decided that there were two stories that were only loosely linked, the story of the ongoing disagreements between Netanyahu and the army and the story of the negotiations that Herzog was having with Netanyahu. Frankly I did not understand why Herzog was engaging in the negotiations since I did not see how they could turn out well. It just did not make sense to me that Netanyahu would be willing to give the minimum that Labor needed to justify entering into a coalition with Likud. The thrust of my article was clearly in that direction and initially dealt with how Labor was coming apart over the issue. Events of the day changed the article dramatically and the day ended with Avigdor Lieberman as our new Defense Minister.
I have to say as someone whose son received his first draft notice today, the idea of Lieberman as Defense Minister is abhorrent. Netanyahu’s actions in appointing him should prove to anybody who cares about Israel how dangerous he has become to Israel. There are only two reasons that explain the appointment of Lieberman- Netanyahu’s perception that it will help him politically, or his interest in harming the army and its command. To many of us the army is one of the last bastions of intelligent people making decision in the public sector in this country. Either reason is frightening.
To realize how terrible this idea is, you only have to reflect on the facts- and I am not talking about Lieberman’s politics, which while I think are self-defeating and immoral- do not disqualify him. What should disqualify him, is his lack of experience, lack of temperament and the smell of corruption that surrounds him. Never has a man as unqualified been appointed to Defense Minister. He had a minimum army service, has never run a large organization and never shown any expertise in the matters of defense beyond making provocative statements. Worse than that, he is known not to have patience for meetings that last longer than 10 minutes.
Who is he replacing ? A former Chief of Staff, commander of the Central Command, commander of the most elite units, who by all accounts has been an excellent Defense Minister. What might the current Defense Ministers sins be- he thought a soldier who by all accounts killed a wounded terrorist in cold blood for no reasons should be tried. He defended the deputy chief of staff who might have picked the wrong day to warn about certain racist phenomena in our society, but most of us think he was right in warning about. So now, Netanyahu has appointed one of the people responsible for those problematic phenomena in our country to be Defense Minister.
By the way have I mentioned the fact that although he was not charged in the end with corruption after a 10 year investigation, the fact that his 19-year-old daughter received a $17 million shekel consulting contract remains very suspicious, to say the least. Now that same man is going to be responsible for the largest budget of the state of Israel.
I repeat a qualified thoughtful experienced Defense Minister is being replaced to serve the narrow political interest of Netanyahu. I am yet to hear any thoughtful person come up with a single justification. Everyone I know is very worried by this development and i am clearly understating the level of concern. I have to laugh when I read about the Conservative and Reform movements sending a delegation to convince Netanyahu to save the agreement on the access to the Wall. Do American Jews really think that a man who put an unqualified demagogue to be in charge of the Defense Ministry because it was politically expedient, cares about the views of American Jewry when its not politically expedient to listen?