Those who thought new Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman would sit in his new office and not make any big moves during his first few months in office were no doubt surprised to hear the echoes from the blasts hitting the Gaza Strip as well as Lieberman’s harsh words following the rocket that hit Sderot and interrupted end-of-summer celebrations. One rocket, 50 Gazan targets bombed. That’s proportionality for you.
Lieberman’s first 100 days in office will conclude in September, and we can count on him to mark the date well, and not in any off-the-record brief. When the time comes, he’ll convene a press conference in which he’ll fully back the IDF – but also declare a change of policy. What won’t be expressed there will be his immense satisfaction with the job he never really thought he’d get. Even Prime Minister Netanyahu, who gave him said job, doesn’t fully comprehend what’s happened.
But Lieberman is happy. He understands the power in his hands very well. He comprehends the place a defense minister holds in the Israeli government’s food chain. He sees himself as someone who could decide where the country is headed – war or peace. Because if the situation were right and a peace accord with the Palestinians were possible, no one would move him from it: Not even his right-winger and settler friends. Just the same, if war is needed, no Cabinet meetings will make him turn away from it.
Decisiveness is a key concept here. If there’s one thing Lieberman takes pride in, it’s his ability to make decisions. This or that, here or there. That was his main gripe about Netanyahu and Ya’alon during Operation Protective Edge: Their inability to make a decision and follow it through to the end, without blinking or zigzagging.
The media’s pokes at Lieberman over his broken promises – which were made when he thought he’d never ever actually become minister of defense – took its toll. So yes, Haniyeh is still alive. Hamas is still here. But give him a little time: Lieberman, along with the IDF, sent a message this week which signaled that Israel’s policy of threat containment is over. It’s not a small thing – if this is the response we get for one single rocket fired by an Islamist organization, we should expect interesting things in the future. The rules of the game have quite clearly changed.
Now Lieberman is speaking of Gaza’s disarmament in return for its reconstruction. A West Bank village that hasn’t produced any terrorists just got a soccer field. They’ve been waiting for the IDF to approve it for three years; Lieberman went on one tour of the area and approved it right away. That was part of his award-and-punishment approach.
That was the carrot. We can only imagine what form the stick may take.