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Tactless Warrior or Weathered Maverick?

Binyamin Rose

Avigdor Lieberman has minimal military experience and a penchant for speaking his mind, no matter where he finds himself. As Israel’s new defense minister, can he tame himself while keeping Israel’s enemies at bay?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When Avigdor Lieberman was Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, he summoned the media to his headquarters one mid-December morning in 2011 for an “urgent” news conference. The occasion: Word got out that Prime Minister Netanyahu insulted Lieberman by dispatching a lower-ranking emissary to Turkey for “secret” talks aimed at mending relations strained by the Gaza flotilla debacle. 

Getting dissed was nothing new to Lieberman. Netanyahu was coerced more than once into sending an understudy to a foreign land, most notably the US and France, due to their revulsion for Lieberman. On this morning, Lieberman acted unconcerned. A man with a sense of humor, mainly for his own jokes, he laughed off the idea that talks were held behind his back. He retold the old anecdote about the diplomat who lost a briefcase full of classified documents. Once the diplomat learned the contents had been revealed and plastered all over the newspapers, he reacted by ordering his underlings to shred those selfsame documents. 

After spinning this yarn, Lieberman looked around the room at the approximately 30 members of the press corps — Mishpacha among them — all seated around his large, oval, glass table to see who was laughing and who wasn’t. Fortunately for him — or perhaps the press, if they wanted to get invited back — everyone got the joke, or at least pretended to. Yet Avigdor Lieberman’s sudden appointment as Israel’s minister of defense is no laughing matter, especially considering its significance in a number of crucial arenas.


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