The old adage suggesting that victory has a multitude of fathers, while failure, alas, is an orphan, can be applied yet again, this time to describe the grim aftermath in Shas following the heartbreaking loss of the Avigdor Lieberman-Aryeh Deri candidate for mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion (the name should be spelled “Leon,” but the campaign opted for this, more feline spelling).
So the bad guy in this story of glory and defeat is Israel Beiteinu strong man MK Avigdor Lieberman, soon to be either the previous and next Foreign Minister, or the next man with a serial number at the Ma’asiahu prison for white collar criminals—court decision on that one expected in two weeks.
But for now, Lieberman appears to be shouldering the shame of the mayoral loss, with attacks on him coming both from sore losers and sore winners. Yes, the winning incumbent, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat now and for the next 5 years, is not doing the gracious. not even pretending.
“Lieberman is a dishonest man, a fixer who wanted to turn me into a marionette and couldn’t,” Barkat told Ma’ariv.
According to the winner, Lieberman made it his life’s mission to destroy him, Barkat, who, apparently, remained pure as the driven Jerusalem snow: “I could have made a deal and appoint Vladimir Sklar CEO of the East Jerusalem Development corporation the way Lieberman insisted, and then I would have gotten wall-to-wall support,” he said. “I refused. I took a chance and paid a heavy price.”
In Israel, it seems, to the winner goes being spoiled.
MK Lieberman for his part has been denying the Sklar appointment story, arguing instead that in his feverish yearning to win, Barkat has sold the city out to the Haredim—specifically, former Haredi mayoral candidate Chayim Epstein has been saying he’s being appointed Barkat’s deputy mayor, with pay.
The nice appointment is considered to be his reward for keeping his name on the ballot even as it was becoming obvious he was going nowhere—and with that helped siphon off some of Lion’s Haredi votes. It’s a good theory.
But the worst thing for Lieberman was not the spectacle of the winner Barkat doing a victory dance in a fashion that would not go well over in the States, where the first thing a loser does is congratulate the winner, to be followed by the winner complimenting the loser. Over in the Jewish State, we win, we fillet the loser, fire up the barbie, have a beer.
The worst thing for Lieberman is how his own campaign has been badmouthing him. Ma’arive quotes Likud-beiteinu campaign workers who said “Lieberman pulled the rug from under all of us… He couldn’t deliver the goods… He didn’t deliver the Likudniks, and he especially didn’t deliver the Russians he promised… All the Israel Beiteinu voters in Jerusalem supported Nir Barkat… Israel Beiteinu used to have 2 seats in the city council – that’s now been erased… Even when combining the Liebrman and Likud votes, they barely make it past the blocking percentage…”
Finally, senior Aryeh Deri operatives put all the blame on Lieberman. The rift between Deri and Lieberman is serious. Last week, Deri told his listeners on Haredi radio station Kol Barama that they had to vote in large numbers, to secure a Shas-Lieberman partnership. Now, after the defeat, Deri told those same listeners that they lived up to his expectations—they awarded 35 thousand votes to Moshe Lion, but on the Likud-Beiteinu side the failure was overwhelming.
Deri’s seniors are angry at Lieberman, but they’re livid at Deri himself for falling prey to Lieberman’s machinations. It was a known thing that Lieberman could round up 10 thousand Russians in Jerusalem – that’s the number that voted for his faction in 2008. So how come all the Russians went for Barkat? Was Deri being naïve when he figured Lieberman for a solid real estate asset, when, in fact, that asset is infested with termites and about to fall on its own foundations?
Lieberman had nothing to tell his followers and the press other than his own version of you win some, you lose some. If he’s taken down by the court two weeks from now, it would mark a sea change in Israeli politics, an earthquake that could empower the right or the left, depending on whom you ask.
If Lieberman wins, he’ll have an enormous task of regrouping, and of finding out whether or not the “Russians” are still in his camp. It’s not inconceivable that in the last five years, Israel’s one million Russian olim have gone native, and so an ethnically identified figure like Lieberman may be on the way out or off to the shop, to get himself reinvented.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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