Just days after joining the government, Avigdor Lieberman has set the national agenda—at least for the day. His statement that Arabs must be separated from Israel has become the talk of the town.
Lieberman, Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, told The Sunday Telegraph’s Jerusalem correspondent that the best way to achieve peace in the Middle East would be for Jews and Arabs—including Israeli-Arabs—to live apart.
The remarks drew a storm of protest from the left-wing. MK Dov Hanin of the joint Arab-Israeli Hadash party said that Lieberman should be fired for his racist remarks. Meretz MK Zahava Gal’on added, “Lieberman was always a Kahanist, and remains a Kahanist.”
MK Uri Ariel (National Union), on the other hand, justified Lieberman’s position: “His words about the threat presented by Israeli-Arabs to the physical existence of the State of Israel are correct. Now that he has entered the government, it remains only for us to see which of his plans he will actualize to deal with this threat.”
“We established Israel as a Jewish country,” Lieberman said. “I want to provide an Israel that is a Jewish, Zionist country. It’s about what kind of country we want to see in the future. Either it will be an [ethnically mixed] country like any other, or it will continue as a Jewish country.”
In Favor of Territorial Exchange
Lieberman disagrees with most of his right-wing colleagues in one aspect of his “separation” plan between Israeli Jews and Arabs. While most of the right-wing recognizes Jordan as the original Palestinian state, and some, such as MK Benny Elon, would leave many Arabs in Judea and Samaria as a “sub-state” of Jordan, Lieberman wishes to trade Israeli-Arab populated areas for Jewish areas of Judea and Samaria.
Specifically, Lieberman would hand over the Um El-Fahm area of the southern Galilee, known as the Triangle, to foreign sovereignty. By thus redrawing Israel’s borders, he wishes to retain Israel’s overwhelming Jewish majority.
Speaking today with Army Radio, Lieberman explained, “The exchange of territories and populations will help us form a Jewish, homogeneous state. We promised to establish a Palestinian state free of Jews, but in the meanwhile, we ourselves are turning into a bi-national state with a minority of more than 20% Arabs.”
The Cyprus Model
“Minorities are the biggest problem in the world,” Lieberman told the newspaper. “I think separation between two nations is the best solution. Cyprus is the best model. Before 1974, the Greeks and Turks lived together and there were frictions and bloodshed and terror. After 1974, they constituted all Turks on one part of the island, all Greeks on the other part of the island and there is stability and security.” Acknowledging that this involved the forcible eviction of thousands, he said that in any event, “the final result was better.”
The Telegraph writes in the name of “analysts” that the “smooth appointment [to the government] of a man recently considered an extremist rabble-rouser is a sign of political radicalization in Israel.” Tel Aviv University political science professor Gideon Doron is quoted as saying, “After the summer war in Lebanon, many Israelis have moved to the Right. They think security is bad and trust Palestinians and Arabs less. They don’t believe in the possibility of peace through negotiations, so Lieberman has become the center of a new consensus.”
Lieberman, the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party, also had some strong words for Iran. Israel is on the “front line of a clash of civilizations between the free world and extremist Islam,” he said, adding that Iran is “the base of an axis of evil which is a problem for all the world.”
“Every week, the president of Iran declares his intention to destroy us,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman called upon the international community to unite against “an axis of evil led by Iran. Iran is the biggest threat. It’s a problem for the whole world, but Israel really has a bad location. We are on the front line between the clash of civilizations between the free world and the extremist Islamic world.”