Friday, June 3, 2016

Snap judgement: The two faces of Liberman

Calev Ben-David, Jerusalem Post

image (not from article) from

There is though another side to Liberman to worry about – and I’ve a story about that too.

When Avigdor Liberman was appointed as strategic affairs minister in 2006, I was running the Jerusalem office of the Israel Project, a US-based NGO.
One of the things the Israel Project did was assist top Israeli officials in public diplomacy on such issues as the peace process and Iran, by presenting them with survey results and recommendations from some of America’s top political pollsters. Told by my boss in Washington that renowned Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg was heading to Jerusalem with new polling on Iran, I suggested we add a meeting with Liberman, whose ministry was tasked with handling public diplomacy on countering Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
There was one problem: Greenberg is a man of strong liberal convictions, and though I had seen him consult comfortably with such right-wing leaders as Benjamin Netanyahu, he expressed discomfort meeting with Liberman because of his harsh rhetoric and positions regarding Israeli Arabs.
I checked with Liberman’s strategic adviser, someone I knew and trusted; he assured me his boss was a far more pragmatic personality than his public utterances suggested, and would be happy to be briefed on the pollster’s results on how to best address the Iran issue abroad. ...
THERE IS though another side to Liberman to worry about  ...
This is the Liberman whose shady business dealings here and abroad were the subject of years of police investigation. ...
Liberman, to quote Churchill’s famous remark about Russia, has until now been a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma. I know people, on both the Right and Left, who seriously believe he is really some sort of “Manchurian Candidate” Russian mole, still answering to his real masters in the Kremlin.
While that’s nonsense, the real Liberman is unknown to us. So let’s hope that when we do find out who our new defense minister really is, it’s one who turns out to be more than our best expectations – and not worse than our deepest fears.

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