Leading article: Cynical and unnecessary

Share

Ehud Olmert's decision to bring the ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman into the Israeli government may be the cunning ruse of a prime minister determined to shore up his own position at almost any cost. But it cannot be in Israel's interests.

Mr Lieberman is an able demagogue with a chequered past who has built his popularity - mainly among immigrants from the former Soviet Union - on three pillars, each of them contentious. First, he has proposed expelling all Israeli Arabs who do not declare "complete loyalty" to the Jewish state, and executing any Arab members of the Knesset who talk to Hamas. Second, he has made the sinister - and false - proposition that Israel's freedom of operation is too constrained by the checks and balances of its democratic system. And third, he has opposed the pull-out from Gaza that Mr Olmert so prominently supported.

Mr Olmert may be irritated that two Labour MPs in his coalition have occasionally rebelled in Knesset votes. But his government has not yet been seriously threatened. In any case, the left-wing Meretz would be a much more internationally acceptable means of expanding his coalition.

It is cynical in the extreme for Mr Olmert to appoint to his inner Security Cabinet a man who once suggested bombing the Aswan Dam as well as Tehran. Policy on Iran, which Mr Olmert rightly says is as serious an issue as any faced by Israel, has been turned at best into a square on the snakes and ladders board of the country's domestic politics, at worst into something much more dangerous.

By inserting himself at the heart of a centrist government, Mr Lieberman has triumphantly brought himself in from the margins. It is not surprising that the process by which he has done so has been compared in Israel to the first steps to parliamentary power taken by Mussolini and Hitler. At very least, Mr Lieberman's presence will reinforce the existing tendency to eschew any political or diplomatic initiatives, whether on Syria or the Palestinians.

Labour is likely to remain in the coalition, if only because Amir Peretz, the Labour leader and Defence Minister, would have a problem rebuilding his own credibility in opposition - weakened as it is by the failings of the Lebanon war and the erosion of his social agenda. But he may find it even more difficult to do so if he remains in government with a man whose cabinet presence he once said was a "red line" he would not cross.

Whatever this says about Labour or Avigdor Lieberman, however, it says most about Mr Olmert. It only reinforces the impression that this is a man who falls far short of being the statesman Israel so badly needs at its helm.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before