In an unusual public attack, Lieberman slams the former Prime Minister for standing behind the ‘disturbing allegations,’ a week after the publication of claims regarding Lieberman offering a fee in exchange for having a senior officer murdered.
Even by the standards of Israeli election rhetoric, the vicious attack that Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman unleashed against opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday was unprecedented.
“The man is the scum of the earth,” Lieberman said of Netanyahu, who was once his boss in the 1990s and later served alongside him in consecutive governments. “He has no red lines,” Lieberman continued. “And it’s clear to him that all that stands between him and ruling the country is Avigdor Lieberman.”
Israeli politics can often resemble a mud bath, especially as the country’s fifth election since 2019 is fast approaching. But Lieberman’s choice of words left even veteran political analysts surprised, and led some to declare that after a slow start, this year’s election campaign has finally started.
The longstanding bad blood between the two men has been boiling at an elevated temperature ever since May 2019, when Lieberman stunned the political world by refusing to join a government with Netanyahu and Israel’s religious parties, depriving Netanyahu from a majority and starting Israel’s endless cycle of undecided elections.
The latest attack, though, was born out of very specific circumstances. Last week, Israeli media began quoting a former aide to Lieberman, who claims that twenty years ago, while the Israeli police was investigating Lieberman in several corruption cases, the senior politician had offered to pay him $100,000 to murder the senior officer leading the investigation.
Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, was forced to suspend his political career for several years to fight charges in court, but was eventually acquitted in 2013 and staged a successful political comeback. But while many politicians, particularly in Israel, are charged with being corrupt, few are accused of soliciting murder.
The accusation, which so far has not been corroborated or supported by any evidence, comes from Yossi Kamisa, a former police officer who had worked with Lieberman in the past. Kamisa has said publicly that Lieberman made the incredible offer to him 20 years ago, and that he was afraid to publicize it until now.
Liberman has been vigorously denying the accusation nonstop in recent days, and has also threatened to take legal action against Kamisa. At the same time, he is pointing a finger at Netanyahu and Likud for orchestrating the story, supposedly in an attempt to hurt him ahead of the election. He has called the allegations “a malicious and planned step as part of a campaign against me and against Yisrael Beiteinu.”
Before entering a weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, Lieberman stopped to brief reports and dropped his rhetorical bomb on Netanyahu, stating that the former prime minister is “frustrated” by his refusal to win a majority in the four previous elections. Lieberman said that his party, which is right-wing but secular in nature, is “the only thing” stopping Netanyhau and Israel’s religious parties from winning a majority.
In response, a Likud Party statement shot back Sunday that Lieberman was “hallucinating” the idea that Netanyahu was in any way behind the “disturbing allegations” against him. “Let’s just hope he doesn’t offer anyone $100,000 to get rid of Netanyahu,” the party added.
Lieberman may not have put out a hit on former Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he is arguably the person who sent the opposition leaders’ political career into a downward spiral from which it hasn’t recovered, ever since he refused to join him in a coalition three-and-a-half years ago.
One thing is clear: with almost two months left in this election, and Netanyahu desperate to win a majority this time and avoid a potential rebellion within the ‘bloc’ of parties that support him, the attacks on Lieberman are likely to escalate – and the Finance Minister’s reply, as his own party battles to remain above Israel’s electoral threshold, will be just as fierce.
As for the allegations, Israel’s Attorney General has announced she will look into them. However, most legal experts believe that because they are not supported by any external evidence, and because Kamisa is describing a conversation that allegedly took place twenty years ago, the AG will not open an investigation into the matter.