Following a shake-up in the Israeli Defense Ministry which included a statement by the military’s Chief of Staff that the current trends in Israeli society were reminiscent of pre-World War II Germany, the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, decided to replace his Defense Minister with an extreme right-wing ideologue, Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman had previously served as the Foreign Minister, and is known for his extreme right-wing views. These views include frequent calls for the expulsion of Palestinians and the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land.
The decision by Netanyahu to replace Moshe Ya’alon has been widely reported by Israeli analysts as a political move to build a larger bloc within the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). The addition of Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party will increase Netanyahu’s coalition from 60 to 67 seats in the Knesset.
Israelis across the political spectrum have criticized Netanyahu’s decision, including political leaders in his own party. MK (Parliament member) Benny Begin, the son of right-wing Prime Minister Menachem Begin, told reporters that he thought Netanyahu’s move was “delusional”.
Prior to moving to Israel from Moldova, Lieberman worked as a nightclub bouncer. When he moved into an Israeli settlement, he gained infamy when he was charged with beating up a 12-year old boy. He espoused extreme right-wing views, and became a member of the Yisrael Beitenu party. He is now chair of that party.
In 2012, a corruption case against Lieberman was dropped, and an article in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz stated, “Completing the investigation would have required judicial inquiries in different countries, but a decision was taken on the matter, to wind up the investigation instead of probing deeper.”
The Ha’aretz article quoted the investigation’s documents, which found that Lieberman had millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts linked to at least five different companies in his name. The investigation’s report also stated, “Considerable questions and queries remain in light of the evidence seemingly indicating Lieberman’s involvement in the companies and his improper connection with them. Needless to say, closing a criminal case for lack of evidence does not constitute a certificate of vindication and does not eliminate these doubts.”