Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman is under attack from left and right over a tape that was revealed Tuesday night by Israel’s Channel 12 News, showing him in a 2013 meeting with the late ultra-Haredi Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, where the two discussed their objections to the gay pride parade.
The meeting has been described as Liberman’s ultimate feat of cynicism, since in the meeting he appears to betray both his liberal and his anti-religious agendas, the two cornerstones of his current election campaign.
The two men talked about collaborations, their mutual opposition to gay pride parades, and according to Haredi officials who were there—and were most likely the source of the video—about changes to the draft law.
In 2013, Liberman ran the campaign for mayor of Jerusalem on behalf of Moshe Leon, and needed all the Haredi votes to win. But the extremist Haredi Jerusalem faction, controlled by the late Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, ran a straw candidate who stood to win only 3% of the votes, but threatened to thwart Leon’s victory. Which is why Liberman asked for the meeting with Rabbi Auerbach, for whom Yaakov Litzman and Aryeh Deri were barely Jewish.
As can be seen in the video, Liberman was quite attentive to the requests of the militant rabbi, and the two succeeded in agreeing on at least one issue, resistance to the gay parades.
Liberman is heard saying that when Leon is elected: “There will not be all the parades they do here, and the gay festivals.”
Liberman was pushing the point for Rabbi Auerbach that, that since a Haredi candidate had no chance of getting elected mayor, at least Leon was an observant Jew, reminding the rabbi: “Even when there was a Haredi candidate, Mr. [Menachem] Porush, he only reached 43 percent.”
Throughout the meeting, Liberman’s adviser, Avi Abuhatzeira, was trying to stop the recording. When Rabbi Yosef Petrov, head of the Jerusalem faction, brought up the toughest demand, stopping the Haredi military draft, said, “We want a commitment, that Liberman will say, ‘I will not allow yeshiva students to join the army,'” just before Liberman replied, Abuhatzeira ordered the taping stopped.
The video ends before Liberman gave his answer, and there are two versions of it. An official of the Jerusalem faction claims that Liberman promised to thwart the draft law, and Israel Beiteinu claims that he refused, which is why he never received the late rabbi’s blessings.
Ten months ago, Moshe Leon ran for mayor of Jerusalem again and this time was elected, with a collaboration between Liberman, Deri and Chaim Gafni.
Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) tweeted: “When there are no expectations, there are no disappointments. Since no one endures or trusts this cynical politician, he will probably sit in the opposition in any case.”
Justice Minister Amir Ohana (Likud), who is openly gay, also attacked Liberman, tweeting: “Avigdor Liberman, the ‘new liberal,’ is an old-time homophobe. So it was – so it still is.”
The Labor Party also responded, tweeting: “So Gantz’s new partner tells the Haredim behind closed doors that he is against the gay pride parade? Who would have believed. Is it possible that after the election he will take the Blue&White votes and sit, as always, with his Haredi pals in the Netanyahu government? Take this in, this is the same Liberman – you’ll vote for Gantz and received Liberman and Bibi.”
The Democratic Camp (Meretz-Barak) also responded to the Liberman tape, saying: “Liberman the LGBTphobe (is that a thing? – DI) has never been on the side of either the secular nor the LGBT. The most corrupt man in Israel’s political history will sell out anyone who votes for him, in exchange for one minute on the prime minister’s seat. Anyone who votes for Liberman should not be surprised when he wakes up in a halachic state with Smotrich and Peretz.”
Liberman responded with the best defense – an attack – saying: “I can understand the stress felt by the Haredim. But the draft law will pass in its current version.” He added, somewhat defensively, “I would recommend that Bibi concentrate on intelligence regarding Hamas and Hezbollah instead of archival material. The rest is cheap gossip that has been pulled down from the attic and is disseminated by those who understand they are unable to stop a future broad, liberal, national government without the Haredim and the messianists.”
Could be, but this spade is still, very clearly, one big spade.