Accessibility links

Avigdor Lieberman: Moldova's Mr. Nice Guy

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beitenu

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beitenu

Avigdor Lieberman, whose ultranationalist party came in third place in Israel's parliamentary elections this week, is being touted as a kingmaker, whose meteroic rise, for many, reflects a worrying shift to the right in Israeli politics.

Even some nationalists think he goes a bit too far, with his detractors labeling him an extremist and an anti-Arab racist.

But that's not how they see him in Moldova, the land of his birth.

Members of Chisinau's dwindling Jewish community told RFE/RL's Moldova Service that they were surprised to hear some call Israel's rising political star Avigdor Lieberman an "ultranationalist."

Ilya Mariash, who has met Lieberman and now runs Moldova's only Jewish newspaper "Yevreiskoye Mestechko," said that Lieberman was "balanced" and "nice," a man who never uses strong nationalist language when discussing politics.

Lieberman, the head of the "Yisrael Beiteinu" party, was born in Chisinau, then part of the Soviet Union, in 1958 and moved to Israel in 1978. He often returns to his native Moldova.

In July 2008, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin awarded him one of the country's highest distinctions, "The Order of Honor," for his role in strengthening ties between Israel and Moldova.

Thousands of Jews left Moldova after gaining independence in 1991. There are only several hundred Jews left in the country.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

Show comments