AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN has a restless nature. From time to time he has to do something, anything.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs he should be doing something about, well, foreign affairs. Trouble is, Israel's foreign affairs are managed by others.
The most important sector of our foreign affairs concerns the relationship with the United States. Indeed, this is so important that Binyamin Netanyahu keeps it entirely to himself. Our ambassador in Washington reports to him personally, after being handpicked by Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire.
Relations with the Palestinians are mostly (mis)managed by Ehud Barak, who, as Minister of Defense, is formally in charge of the occupied territories. The main actor there is the Shin Bet, which is under the authority of the Prime Minister.
The relations with the Arab world, such as they are, are maintained by the Mossad, also under the authority of the Prime Minister. In practice, Netanyahu and Barak together make all the decisions, including, of course, The Decision concerning Iran.
So what's left for Lieberman? He can deal as much as he wants with Zambia and the Fiji islands. He can appoint ambassadors to Guatemala and Uganda. And that's it.
Except that he has a personal monopoly on relations with the countries of the Former Soviet Union. How's that? Well, he was born in Soviet Moldavia and speaks Russian fluently. Even though he came to Israel already 34 years ago, just a few days after his 20th birthday, he is still considered by most Israelis as a "Russian," speaking Hebrew with a heavy Russian accent and looking as foreign as possible. But his connection with that part of the world goes beyond cultural factors -- he is an ardent admirer of Vladimir Putin and his Doppelgangers, Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk and Victor Yanukovych in Kiev. He would dearly like to install the same kind of regime in Israel, with himself as the Putin look-alike.
Most of his colleagues in Europe and around the world shun him because of his views, which many of them consider semi-fascist, if not worse.
SO HOW of all possible jobs, did Netanyahu come to give him the job of foreign minister? Well, as the leader of a party essential for the formation of the right-wing coalition, he had a right to one of the three major ministries: defense, finance or foreign relations. Who would dare to deny that defense is a God-given fief of Barak? Since Netanyahu considers himself an economic genius, he decided to keep the finance ministry in practice to himself. He found a doctor of philosophy, who had the advantage of being innocent of any knowledge of economics, and appointed him as his proxy minister of finance. That left only foreign affairs, a much despised ministry, for Lieberman.
As this ministry does not provide much activity, and even less that generates headlines, Lieberman is compelled every few months or so to do something to stir things up. He has already insulted many of his colleagues abroad, ably assisted by his deputy, Danny Ayalon, who boasted to journalists that he humiliated the Turkish ambassador by putting him on a low seat. Since at the time the Turkish army was still the closest partner of the Israeli army in the region, Barak was livid.
Lieberman also needs something to divert attention from his famous corruption affair. For 14 years now he has been under investigation about receiving millions of dollars from mysterious sources abroad. Some of the money went to straw companies abroad managed by his daughter, who was then in her early twenties. The Attorney General still has to decide whether to indict him -- which may compel him to resign.
Now Lieberman has caused a stir again.
TWO WEEKS ago, Netanyahu and Barak were amazed to read in the newspapers that Lieberman had sent letters to the foreign ministers of the so-called quartet -- the US, the European Union, the UN and Russia -- who oversee the non-existent "peace process."
In this message, Lieberman demanded that the four dismiss the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and call immediate elections in the West Bank.
The idiocy of this message is mind-boggling, even by Lieberman standards.