Lieber­man looks like real elec­tion win­ner

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

THE RE­CEIVED wis­dom was that there would be two main po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fi­cia­ries from Op­er­a­tion Cast Lead: Ehud Barak as De­fence Min­is­ter, and Binyamin Ne­tanyahu, who could claim pre­science over his warn­ings that Ha­mas had to be con­fronted.

But while Barak’s Labour has slightly im­proved its po­si­tion and Ne­tanyahu’s Likud is still ahead of Kadima, the un­ex­pected ben­e­fi­ciary has been Avig­dor Lieber­man and his Yis­rael Beit­enu party If re­cent polls are any­thing to go by, Lieber­man has surged ahead of his pre­vi­ous mar­ginal sta­tus and is now ty­ing with Labour for third place.

The for­mer bouncer’s grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity seems to be based less on his own mer­its and more on dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the three main candidates.

A few years ago, Lieber­man was os­tra­cized as an ex­treme right-winger. But many Is­raelis who pre­vi­ously sup­ported the var­i­ous peace pro­pos­als are now frus­trated by what seems to be the ab­sence of any re­al­is­tic bi­lat­eral so­lu­tion to the con­flict with the Pales­tini­ans. They are, it seems, will­ing to give Lieber­man a chance.

Very few vot­ers have read his pro­pos­als — in ef­fect for the pop­u­la­tions and land of Is­raeli Jews and Arabs to be sep­a­rated — in any de­tail. But he ra­di­ates a self-con­fi­dence, in­tel­li­gence and sense of pur­pose lack­ing in his ri­vals. Even a lengthy po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his fi­nances, stepped up this week, has failed to de­ter prospec­tive vot­ers.

Is­raelis are cast­ing around for some­thing dif­fer­ent and Lieber­man is rid­ing this wave.

There will be pro­found im­pli­ca­tions If Yis­rael Beit­enu knocks Labour into fourth place. The win­ner — prob­a­bly Ne­tanyahu — will find it hard to form a coali­tion without giv­ing Lieber­man a sig­nif­i­cant share of power.

Ne­tanyahu has been speak­ing of form­ing a cen­trist, na­tional-unity coali­tion and hyp­ing his abil­ity to build good re­la­tions with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Lieber­man’s pres­ence will not make that easy.

But if Ne­tanyahu tries to form a coali­tion without him, that will mean bring­ing in Kadima and Labour, po­ten­tially caus­ing Likud’s right-wing to erupt in re­bel­lion.

PHOTO: FLASH90

Spoils of war: an elec­tion poster shows Is­rael Beit­enu party leader Avig­dor Liber­man

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