When Right-Wingers Turn to the Left

Here we go again. Another dyed-in-the-wool Israeli right-winger — this time, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — has started talking the talk of the left. Within a few months, a year at best, we’ll know whether he’s prepared to walk the walk, as well.

Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beiteinu, has always been a straight talker when it comes to the peace process and the prospect of signing a deal with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

In October, he was telling interviewers that Abbas is no partner for peace and there is no point in seeking a permanent agreement at this time since the Palestinians aren’t ready for it. The official Palestinian media must first stop its incitement against Israel, and Palestinian textbooks must be altered to include acknowledgement of the Holocaust and a map recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

Lieberman has made himself a pariah on the international scene by being so politically incorrect as to call for “an exchange of lands and populations.” He wants to move the border in a final agreement so that hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs will become citizens of the new Palestinian state.

But last Friday, Lieberman suddenly sounded a very different note, casting himself as the “elder statesman” instead of the “hard-liner” (that’s the label the media routinely assigns him).

“When there is a dispute between the wholeness of the nation and the wholeness of the land, the wholeness of the nation is more important,” he said, signaling that he’s willing to evacuate Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron. Indeed, he suggested heleave his own home in Nokdim, in Gush Etzion, for the sake of real peace.

He also had warm words of praise for Secretary of State John Kerry, who is pressing ahead with a framework agreement that includes far-reaching Israeli compromises that have raised concerns in the defense establishment.

It’s possible that Lieberman hasn’t changed his spots and that he’s merely trying to polish up his image abroad so that he can appear to be a more credible candidate to succeed Binyamin Netanyahu. But he could become addicted to the newfound adulation from the local press, who hailed him as the most “interesting” figure on the political scene, and from the U.S. State Department, and continue pressing ahead with a leftist agenda.

He wouldn’t be the first right-winger to “see the light.” There was Ariel Sharon, who ran for the premiership in 2003 proclaiming “the fate of Netzarim (in Gush Katif) is the fate of Tel Aviv,” and then, two years later, proceeded to throw every last Jew out of Gush Katif.

And no one spoke more eloquently at huge open-air rallies about Yerushalayim as the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish people than Ehud Olmert. Yet, as prime minister, he proposed to Abbas that Israel relinquish sovereignty over Har Habayis and the Basin” (Yerushalayim and surrounding areas) to a joint non-sovereign committee comprised of Israel, the Palestinians, the United States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In recent days, it was revealed that Olmert was also prepared to sign a deal that would have seen 80,000 Jews evicted from their homes in Yehudah and Shomron, nearly 10 times the number expelled from Gush Katif.

And, of course, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech in 2009, in which he declared his support for the two-state solution, contradicted everything he had said or written in the previous 20 years.

So what’s a right-wing Israeli voter to do? If he votes for the left, he gets a leftist, but if he votes for the right he gets an even more extreme leftist! In hindsight, right-wingers should have voted for Sharon’s opponent, Amram Mitzna, in 2003. Mitzna spoke of evacuating some, but not all, of the Jewish communities in Gaza, and may well have been stopped by the bulldozer Sharon, who, as Likud chairman, would have been head of the opposition.

The solution is to stop listening to what politicians say and start looking at how they lead their lives. If their commitment to keep their word is based on political ideology, then it is subject to change. If it is based on Torah, it isn’t.

It is only political leaders who live as Jews in Eretz Yisrael, and who push for budgets and policies that encourage the spread of Torah in the Land, who can credibly make campaign promises.