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Lieberman and the sock it to `em school
Yitzhak Laor
1 November 2006

Avigdor Lieberman is the successor to Meir Kahane, Rehavam
Ze`evi and the settlers` faction in the Knesset. They have
all promoted and are promoting racist politics, whether
explicit (transfer) or in an implicit manner (Israel`s
right to the territories), under the aegis of Israeli

Kahane used to exploit what he called `the forced
conversion of the Jews` by the Zionist left, which he
compared to a pig. He also based his propaganda on
religious texts. Ze`evi used the writings of Zionist
leaders Berl Katznelson and David Ben-Gurion to validate
his politics. He also used his military halo, and when the
question arose of the legitimacy of his appointment as
director of the Eretz Israel Museum, in light of his
ideology, our reservist generals - both left and right -
stood up and defended his `right.` The Israeli sensitivity
to `sociology` - who is `one of ours` and who is not -
created the most important divide between Kahane and

Ze`evi was a sabra but he, too, like the immigrant Kahane,
knew that it is impossible to succeed without a little
old-time religion in the Israel reality after 1967: Anyone
who wants to undermine the rights of the Palestinians must
transfer us to a new conceptual sphere, not a `halakhic
state` (based on Jewish law) but a kind of mixture of
`security` and `divine promise.`

Lieberman is the huge pumpkin that grew in this melon
patch. Although most of the MKs on his slate are
immigrants, it is also adorned by representatives of
`security`: senior Shin Bet security service chief Yisrael
Hasson, and former deputy police commander Yitzhak
Aharonovich. It`s not the names that are important, but
the emphasis Lieberman understood and placed on the
combination of God`s promise to Abraham and the discourse
of power. That is the shared background of the rise of
those who challenge the law-abiding state in the name of
the `divine promise,` which `the law-abiding state has no
right to restrict.`

They all came to power after military failures. Kahane was
elected to the Knesset in 1984, at the height of the
Lebanon fiasco. His `security discourse` was saturated
with what Israelis, in any case, had absorbed with their
mother`s milk for decades: `Let`s sock it to `em and get
this over with.` But because the Israeli `socking it to
`em` hasn`t led to `getting this over with` for a long
time, Kahane spoke a great deal about fear. The defeat in
Lebanon actually gave him an advantage: He did not
represent the defense establishment, but a higher security
authority, the God of Israel.

Ze`evi did not come from the margins, but he was elected
to the Knesset at the height of the first intifada. And
Lieberman is a product of the second intifada. His
grotesque appointment could not have taken place without
the present fiasco in Lebanon - after which there is no
longer such a thing as `Mr. Security.` The quasi-mystical
belief that there is someone on whom to rely received its
coup de grace in Lebanon, with the assistance of Ehud
Olmert, Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz. This belief (shared by
the so-called left and right) finally proved bankrupt
after several decades during which it has been clear that
there is no military solution to Israel`s `security`
problems. It is precisely this vacuum that is covered over
by the Kahane-Ze`evi-Lieberman discourse: `We`ll expel the
Arabs, and everything will be solved.` A divine `let`s
sock it to `em and get this over with.`

And so we arrive at the settlement enterprise of Gush
Emunim (the settlers` movement) - the swamp from which
these politics are hatched. Although this enterprise was
fueled by the foolhardiness of the Alignment (Labor)
government after 1967, only after the 1973 Yom Kippur War
did the members of the movement dare to implement the
`divine promise of security,` contrary to all the
democratic rules of the game. That was when they first
challenged the ability of the army to understand `what`s
good for Israel` and the sovereignty of the State of
Israel as a law-abiding country. From this time forward
the platform of `what we will do to the Arabs` drew its
strength from a mixture of disdain for the army and
disdain for democracy, not because the army represented
democracy, God forbid, but because the settlers challenged
the relative pragmatism of the generals.

Things would not have reached the point of Lieberman`s
being appointed minister for strategic threats had we not
undergone many years during which the defense
establishment itself was swept up in this political
whirlpool of using force against the Arabs in the name of
`our forefathers.` Examples? The deliberations of former
chief of staff Moshe (Bogie) Ya`alon, or alternatively, of
the head of the Israel Defense Forces Personnel
Directorate, Major General Elazar Stern. In other words:
Anyone who thinks that in order to defeat Kahanism, the
army has to win a little more should recall that the IDF
fights wars that cannot be won.

Lieberman is more dangerous than his predecessors. He
speaks to a huge public of immigrants, secular Jews, and
he speaks of a `strong man,` a new addition to the
religion-security mix. Anyone who does not grasp that this
is another stage in Israel`s decline can adopt the
cynicism of Olmert and Peretz. Education Minister Yuli
Tamir can always wave her alibi: There was once a movement
called Peace Now, and Tamir used to go to its meetings.

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