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Liberman Waits for Chance To Collect on Political Debts

The man behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's electoral victory is none other than former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and he will not let the premier forget it, writes Ben Caspit. 
Avigdor Lieberman (C), former Israeli foreign minister, arrives at Jerusalem's magistrate court February 17, 2013. Lieberman's trial began in Jerusalem on Sunday and he pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and breach of trust, allegations that prompted his resignation as foreign minister in December. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) - RTR3DWQJ
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Israel's former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman is on hold. The man considered until recently the most powerful figure on the Israeli political map and the biggest threat to the hegemony of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently awaiting criminal trial on charges explosive enough to put the lid on his political career. And yet, given his current situation, Liberman has never been in a better position. Considering that for the time being, he is barred from serving as a government minister (although, pending a verdict in his case, he can keep his office as Knesset member), Liberman still wields vast political power. What’s more, he has lost none of his influence on Netanyahu, or his impact on the government and the decision-making process. Be that as it may, Liberman's future is uncertain and at the mercy of the judges. His present, in contrast, is by far more relaxed and promising and puts him at an advantageous starting point in the race for leadership.

Liberman has mastered the art of power wielding. He is an expert at situation evaluations, whatever the circumstances, and a real pro in maximizing the potential of leverage. Thus, already prior to the recent parliamentary election, he realized that on the legal level, he was hanging by a thread and was smart enough to opt for an alliance with Netanyahu. As a matter of fact, Liberman handed the premiership to Netanyahu on a silver platter. Had it not been for the union between the ruling Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, Bibi (Netanyahu) would have no doubt lost the election. This is now clear to all and sundry. Just before the union between the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu was announced, the polls anticipated only about 24 mandates for Netanyahu. Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich was already sure at the time of landing 21 to 22 mandates. The momentum was working against Bibi and in favor of Shelly. The Israeli voters, who yearned to see Netanyahu replaced at the helm, would have elected Yachimovich to the premiership. Yachimovich was supposed to become the new “Tzipi Livni,” only better: Unlike Livni in 2009, Shelly Yachimovich would have succeeded in setting up a government.

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