Right-Winger Emerges as Israel’s Kingmaker

Right-Winger Emerges as Israels Kingmaker

Writing a wish on a piece of paper and sticking it into the cracks of Jerusalem’s ancient Western Wall is a time-honored practice among Jews seeking God’s help, so it’s hardly surprising that visiting the sacred site with a message for the Almighty has become an election-eve ritual for Israeli politicians. At twilight on Monday, Israel’s most controversial politician, Avigdor Lieberman, arrived with a phalanx of bodyguards and photographers and threaded his way between the black-hatted ultra-Orthodox men praying at the Wall to twist his message into a crack between the stones.

It was a shrewd campaign move in light of recent warnings by several prominent rabbis that casting a vote for Lieberman would be “strengthening Satan.” A burly Soviet immigrant to Israel in the 1970s — his Hebrew still retains a Russian inflection — Lieberman provoked the rabbis’ ire not only because he is a secular Jew, but also because his tough, anti-Arab slogans are luring many hawkish Israelis away from religious parties. A trip to the Western Wall was a way for Lieberman to underline his kosher credentials.