The person I like least in the Knesset, the person I detest by far more than I do Haneen Zoabi, or Ahmad Tibi, two openly pro-Palestinian Arab MKs who are on occasion very hard to take – the one person who awakens the angry Jew in the pit of my stomach is MK Zehava Gal-On, leader of the now-minuscule, ultra-leftist Meretz party, who looks and sounds like the aging Communists who used to gather at Union Square for fiery speeches on May Day, except her voice reminds me of fingernails screeching down a glass window.
The same Zehava Gl-On, last night, on one of the local TV channels in an interview that followed the Netanyahu-Liberman announcement of their upcoming wedding, has come up with the perfect name for the new political creature born by the happy couple: she named it Biberman.
She invested this nickname with all the Jew-hating zeal of the left, which by now has stopped bothering to hide its anti-Semitism. This is not the left of Hubert Humphrey or even George McGovern, not to speak of David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir. This is the left of the Yevsektsia and gulags, whose repulsion of things Jewish is pathological. When Gal-On calls the new deal of the two major right-wing parties “Biberman,” she spatters the name like an evangelical Christian decrying the Prince of Darkness.
But I must tell you, having provided the emotional and historical context for the new name, I must admit that I love it, and that come January 22, I’m most likely going to vote Biberman. As will many other Israelis, I trust, who have in the past voted for neither Biberman partner.
The short announcement by the two men last night—there were no questions from the reporters in the room—described a logical union of Likud, with its 27 seats in the outgoing Knesset, and Yisrael Beitenu, with its 15 seats, to create a powerful new party with the potential to attract more seats than its sum total of 42.
An old, by now departed, chavruta of mine used to say that before you start talking about good government, you have to have government. And both men have proven to the voter that they are able to govern. Netanyahu boasted that this has been the most stable government in Israel’s history, and he may not be so far from the truth. More than that, it has been a government that faced the worst global economic tides in decades, and under its rule Israel was among the very first Western countries to emerge from the worst of it. They faced adversity on the social welfare front and managed to calm the “Occupy Sderot Rothschild” protests. They also managed a hot border with Gaza and a cooler border with the PA, and were able to mobilize the world against a nuclear Iran. They’ve done quite well.
Now, I was going to vote for Liberman’s party and not for Likud. I was disappointed by Netanyahu’s cavalier treatment of the settlements, his use of Ehud Barak as his errands boy against the settlers, and his failure to adopt the Levy Committee’s recommendation to apply Israeli law to the Jewish towns and villages of Judea and Samaria.
I planned to vote for Liberman not because I thought he was any more trustworthy regarding the fate of the settlements, despite his show of anti-Abbas machismo. I also didn’t think he was such a stellar foreign minister—although he did improve relations with Russia in ways only he could have done, and brought in from the cold several former Soviet republics, as well as rebuilding relationships with long-ignored countries, because they weren’t the United States. I was also aware of the cloud hovering above Liberman’s head, as five-years’ worth of attorneys generals have been threatening to prosecute him for “corruption” (this mostly has to do, as I understand it, with just how blind is the blind trust managing his businesses).
My reason for supporting Liberman this time around was gratitude. One of the portfolios held by his coalition party is Absorption: the Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver is a member of Yisrael Beiteinu.
My family arrived in Israel last December and we have had a charmed aliyah, largely due to the competent and compassionate help we received from the Absorption officials, starting at Ben Gurion airport on a very early Monday morning. It has been obvious to us that letting recent immigrants—the largely Russian crew at the ministry—run absorption services is an ingenious idea, and it works. As a voter, I’d like to reward competence with my vote.