Feb 19, 2009

Keep Lieberman out of the government

Keep Lieberman out of the government  - 02:30 20/02/2009
By Haaretz Editorial

Israelis still don't know who won last week's elections, or who will put together the next government. The only clear result is that Avigdor Lieberman is trying to dictate the nature and composition of the new coalition.

This is evident from the conditions he demanded of Likud and Kadima for Yisrael Beiteinu's joining the government and from his appearance yesterday at the President's Residence, where he stipulated that he wanted a broad coalition headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel's democracy is breaking daily records of degradation. The large parties, failing to win broad public support, are wooing a politician who conducted a racist campaign against the state's Arab citizens and is suspected of grave criminal acts. They are allowing him to determine who will head the government and who its partners will be.

In exchange for Lieberman's political support, Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni are competing with each other to legitimize Yisrael Beiteinu and its hate campaign. Likud promised "to examine additional amendments to the citizenship law" to implement Lieberman's campaign slogan of "no citizenship without loyalty."

Likud modifies its position, saying that the amendments will correspond with "international judicial and constitutional norms," but in the same breath boasts that it has already initiated legislation to deprive people of their citizenship, in the spirit of Lieberman's stances.

Kadima made do with demanding "military, national or civic service" for every youngster and did not suggest changing the citizenship law. But Livni boasted of her close ties with Lieberman and their long acquaintanceship, presenting him as a legitimate politician and desirable partner in a future coalition led by her.

The attitudes of Livni and Netanyahu cannot simply be dismissed as acceptable political cynicism. It is futile for them to argue that because Lieberman sat as a minister in the governments of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert he is a legitimate partner now. Lieberman's racist election campaign and the serious criminal allegations against him exclude him from a place among legitimate partners to the nation's leadership.

The two claiming the prime minister's chair are trying to ignore this, displaying a lack of leadership and moral bankruptcy. To Netanyahu and Livni, Yisrael Beiteinu's 15 Knesset seats are much more important than Israel's moral image and carrying out the values of equality engraved in the Declaration of Independence.

It is not too late for them to come to their senses. It is possible to set up a stable coalition without Yisrael Beiteinu, conveying a clear message to Israelis and the international community that they have boundaries - that the hate party, its positions and leader must remain outside the government. That Liebermanism must be stopped now, before it gets any stronger.

It is incumbent upon the president to stop the disgrace and act to form a government without Lieberman. Shimon Peres said that in deciding whom to ask to form a coalition he will also take "Israel's policy" into consideration. This is the chance for Israel's elder statesman and Nobel Peace Prize winner to show political courage by conditioning the formation of the next government on preserving Israel's image as a democracy.