A settler himself, FM Avigdor Liberman drops the A-bomb

Yisrael Beytenu boss, fighting for his political life, accuses would-be annexationist Naftali Bennett of risking an apartheid state

BY RAPHAEL AHREN, TOI

Avigdor Liberman dropped the A-bomb on Thursday. Israel’s hard-line, unabashedly nationalistic, settlement-residing foreign minister joined the camp of those warning that an Israeli annexation of the West Bank would lead to an apartheid state.
Avigdor Liberman, left, and John Kerry meeting in Washington on Wednesday, September 18, 2014. photo credit: Jordan Silverman/Foreign Ministry)
Avigdor Liberman, left, and John Kerry meeting in Washington on Wednesday, September 18, 2014. photo credit: Jordan Silverman/Foreign Ministry)

“What [Naftali] Bennett and his Jewish Home party are proposing is a classical bi-national state,” Liberman declared of his Orthodox-nationalist rivals during a press conference in Tel Aviv, and he didn’t mean it as a compliment. “They need to decide if they’re talking about a bi-national state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean such as the president [Reuven Rivlin] speaks about, or whether they’re talking about an apartheid state.”

Applying sovereignty over the West Bank without granting the right to vote to everyone living there, Liberman warned Thursday, would immediately provide fodder to Israel’s critics across the globe. (In Rivlin’s conception, all residents of an expanded Israel would be given equal citizenship, drastically reducing its Jewish majority. Many in Bennett’s far-right party advocate annexing the entire West Bank, home to some 2.75 million Palestinians according to the IDF, though party chairman Bennett himself currently calls only for the annexation of Area C, covering some 60% of the West Bank where about 350,000 Jews and 80,000 Palestinians reside.)

Fighting for his political life in the midst of a major corruption scandal engulfing his Yisrael Beytenu party, and seeing masses of nationalist voters flocking to the Jewish Home ahead of the March 17 general elections, Liberman is seeking to distinguish his diplomatic platform from those of rival right-wing parties, and thus has chosen to join the ranks of Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni and other Israeli top politicos past and present who have invoked the apartheid concern.

Other right-wing leaders have warned of a bi-national state if Israel failed to separate from the Palestinians — most notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — but have stayed far away from the A-word, which traditionally has been found in the verbal toolbox of avowed left-wingers.

All hell broke loose last April when US Secretary of State John Kerry dared to utter “apartheid” in describing what Israel’s future could look like if no peace deal is achieved. After ferocious criticism in Israel and America, Kerry acknowledged that it’s a “word best left out of the debate here at home,” but clarified that in the long term, a bi-national state “cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve.”

He wasn’t the only one to have invoked the “specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future,” Kerry said, noting that Livni, Olmert and former prime minister Ehud Barak have done it, too. Now Liberman can be added to that list.

Hearing Liberman accuse fellow nationalists of risking turning Israel into an apartheid state was also reminiscent of a Likud faction meeting in May 2003, during which then-prime minister Ariel Sharon for the first time lamented Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinians. One doesn’t need to love the word, Sharon said, to the horror of the Likud MKs present, “but what’s happening is an occupation. Holding three and a half million Palestinians [in the West Bank and Gaza] under occupation in my opinion is a terrible thing. It can’t go on indefinitely.”

Liberman, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, belongs to those who don’t like the term “occupation” — he left Sharon’s coalition over the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza — but he has long called for a separation between Jews and Arabs.

According to Yisrael Beytenu’s old-new program, presented by Liberman on Thursday, Israel needs to annex major settlement blocs in the West Bank and in turn cede areas of sovereign Israeli territory predominantly inhabited by Arab citizens to a future Palestine state. The plan is at the center of the party’s electoral platform, as evidenced by its new campaign slogan: “Ariel to Israel, Umm el-Fahm to Palestine.” Ariel is a Jewish city in the West Bank; Umm el-Fahm is an Arab city in the area of Israel known as the “triangle.”

Liberman’s resorting to the A-word to denigrate the Jewish Home shows how desperately he wishes to woo right-wing voters by presenting an equally nationalist but ostensibly more realistic agenda. Presenting his controversial election campaign Thursday, Liberman berated not only Bennett’s “apartheid” scheme, but also the “stagnation” that, according to his view, Netanyahu’s Likud party represents.

“Yisrael Beytenu are the only ones who represent a pragmatic nationalist camp,” Liberman claimed. “No stagnation, no status quo, no bi-national state, but Israel as a Jewish state with maximum territory and maximum population loyal to the values of the state, the Declaration of Independence and the national anthem.”

Liberman’s words underline a fact that some pundits have played down recently: the foreign minister has emphatically not metamorphosed into a left-winger. Despite reports galore about the new “moderate Liberman,” his positions on the Palestinians and on the peace process remain hard-line.

If the new government were to be formed by the center-left “Zionist Camp” led by Livni and Yitzhak Herzog and based on the merged Labor-Hatnua platform of seeking an accord with the Palestinian Authority, he would not be part of the coalition, he clarified, calling such a policy “anachronistic.” Everything Livni and Herzog have to offer they already proposed in previous rounds of peace talks in Camp David and Annapolis, without success, Liberman said.

Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni hold a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on December 10, 2014, announcing a unity deal. (Flash90)
Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni hold a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on December 10, 2014, announcing a unity deal. (Flash90)

He would only join them in a government, he elaborated, if they were to abandon their ideas on the peace process in favor of his. “What will the next government go for? If it’ll follow the same positions of Tzipi Livni and Bujie Herzog, I have nothing to look for there,” he declared. If the new coalition were to strive to renew peace negotiations with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Yisrael Beytenu would not be a part of it, he promised. “We wasted enough time on Abu Mazen,” he said, using Abbas’s nom de guerre. “We won’t be there. That needs to be clear.”

Listening closely to Liberman Thursday, nonetheless, he didn’t completely rule out joining any coalition — neither with the ostensibly apartheid-ushering Bennett nor with the purportedly anachronistic Herzog-Livni. Sitting in opposition would not be the end of the world, he said, but it was clear to all that he’d definitely prefer to remain in government.

The question is how much coalition-building leverage the embattled party leader will have on the morning after the March 17 elections. Recent polls, after all, show Yisrael Beytenu slipping from its current 18 seats to less than half that number.

January 16, 2015 | 15 Comments »

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  1. The Socialists (social-democrats) have a goal not so different from the Islamists. The dominance of the world. In spite of the fact that Jews have been practically expelled from every socialist party and or organization everywhere in the Western world, they remain totally committed to an ideology that rejects Judaism and Zionism. Go understand!

  2. Why do you allow this?
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  3. To all those people living in the Land of Oz .
    We are in a World wide Islamic Cultural War or 1400-year-old Jihad.
    We each see a different parts of it in the world and if you put all the violent parts together it adds up to only one cause: a 1400 year old Islamic Cultural War. It is the same as that joke of four blind men touching the elephant.

    ?The names of the Arabs and Muslim Terrorists change but the behavior has been always the same for the last 1400 years.

    It is not about land, rights or settlements, water or being politically left or right. If it were it would have been solved long ago. It has not.

    It is Cultural War that means Islamic Culture must destroy Western Culture or Western Culture must destroy Islamic Culture. It is a Cultural Genocidal War, just like the American/Indian wars were about. This time we are the Indians.

    Muslims have been fighting each other and others for 1400 years or more. There is no reason that it will stop now. If we want peace we must change Islamic Culture.

    The book “Culture and Conflict”, explains it clearly. It shows that current cultural conditions in the Arab Middle East will not support internal development, advancement or peace until there is a major cultural change. “It is critical that we understand our enemy. That is step one in every conflict,” RR. Philip Carl Salzman, INSB # 978-1-59102-587-0.

  4. To all those people living in the Land of Oz .
    We are in a World wide Islamic Cultural War or 1400-year-old Jihad.
    We each see a different parts of it in the world and if you put all the violent parts together it adds up to only one cause: a 1400 year old Islamic Cultural War. It is the same as that joke of four blind men touching the elephant.

    ?The names of the Arabs and Muslim Terrorists change but the behavior has been always the same for the last 1400 years.

    It is not about land, rights or settlements, water or being politically left or right. If it were it would have been solved long ago. It has not.

    It is Cultural War that means Islamic Culture must destroy Western Culture or Western Culture must destroy Islamic Culture. It is a Cultural Genocidal War, just like the American/Indian wars were about. This time we are the Indians.

    Muslims have been fighting each other and others for 1400 years or more. There is no reason that it will stop now. If we want peace we must change Islamic Culture.

    The book “Culture and Conflict”, explains it clearly. It shows that current cultural conditions in the Arab Middle East will not support internal development, advancement or peace until there is a major cultural change. “It is critical that we understand our enemy. That is step one in every conflict,” RR. Philip Carl Salzman, INSB # 978-1-59102-587-0.

  5. The way forward is to follow and build a wide consensus along
    the lines of unilateral GOI action leading to Israeli control
    of the entire country. This may have to be done in stages,
    i.e area C first, but certainly means no going in the other
    direction. This forward seeking movement must bring into
    coalition ALL like minded parties and eschew those whose core
    values run counter. The natural components of such a coalition would be Likud, Bayit Yehudi, and the Haredim.
    Lieberman and Kahlon should only be permitted to sign on if
    they agree to the basic principles, unilateral action to one
    state, no land surrender, and no TSS.

  6. @ Bear Klein:
    BK, you asked what form of government I would prefer, other than democracy, which I have learned that over time, always degrades itself and becomes unworkable.

    I can only describe this in general terms, but my choice for a form of government would be a nationalist meritocracy grounded in the historically-formed culture of each society. Economic equality is both unimportant and unmaintainable, in that all human societies always have formed into gradations of greater and lesser wealth; I am certain that shall always be the case. Merit would be determined relative to each citizen’s service to the nation and its general well-being in peace, war, and work.

    I am not describing a dictatorship, even though that form of government proved to be the key factor that industrialized and militarily mobilized the great Soviet state of Josef Stalin so that it had the strength to turn back and destroy the Hitlerite armies of World War II. But the culture of the Jewish nation is not at all like the culture of the Russian nation, and the government of each society must be true to the culture of the nation that it rules.

    Instead, what we have seen in Israel for a long time now has been parliamentary rule by temporary coalitions of numerous wrangling parties, which does not work very well at all, as should be obvious to everyone who has studied the corruption that underlies all the politics of the Jewish state. I hope Israel can outlive all that. But the historical record of societies and cultures peacefully self-reforming has not been promising.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  7. @ yamit82: I do not agree with your analysis.

    If Likud and Bayit Yehudi do not join with Labor they could not form coalitition. Also Kulanu would join with Likud. The Haredi parties will join with Likud for a price as usual.

    Yesh Atid and and the Haredim will NOT sit in the same coalition no matter what! This keeps the math for working for Labor and for Likud.

    By the way did you notice in the polls Liebermans party is down to 5 or 6 seats from the 13 they had before. So the scandal has mattered and so has the leaving of all the big names besides for Lieberman.

  8. @ Bear Klein:

    Labor could cobble together a coalition if the Likud does poorly. BB and the Likud have made too many enemies and there will be a tendency for revenge by Lieberman lapid , Shas and Degel. The only party the Likud can count on for sure is Bennett and there is no love loss between the two Bennett and Sarah Netanyahu. Even Rivlin wants to stick it to BB if he can.
    If things end as the polls show today BB won’t be able to form a coalition.

  9. Whatever the coalition ends up being it will be way too many parties to be stable.

    You always say you do not like democracy. So what is your preferred form of government? Does this government type exist in any country in the world?

  10. A Knesset coalition that depends on cooperation with politicians such as Kahlon and, even worse, Liberman, will prove both weak and unstable. But Netanyahu’s Likud needs not only Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi, but also Kahlon’s Kulanu, Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu, and the Jewish religious parties in order to stand off Labor+Lapid, Meretz, and the Arab Knesset votes that could bust up the whole show and force yet another useless round of Knesset elections.

    Yisrael Beitenu appears to be gaining strength in the most recent round of Knesset pre-election polls. But even 18 seats are not enough to give them just enough power to play second fiddle to Likud. Even worse is the possibility that Likud, knowing themselves weakened, could choose to coalesce with Labor+Likud for the next government.

    I sometimes wonder whether the Israeli voting kahal somehow imagines that any kind of permanent peace could ever be achieved with the local Arabs in particular or with the Islamic world as a whole, aided and abetted by an increasingly apathetic, sometimes anti-Semitic, and increasingly Islamic western Europe — unless the European states turn nationalistic once again to stop and reverse that tide..

    There truly is not and can never be any substitute for a Jewish Israel that controls everything west of the Jordan River, and that only as a base for future expansion in all directions.

    Any state action initiated by or agreed to by Israel that limits Jewish settlement in Area C will serve as nothing more than a set of nails in what would become the coffin of Zionism, Jewish Israel, and probably the Jewish nation as well.

    There is no turning back, and there never has been. Israel must expand, self-empower, and act independently of all other nations, just as the ancient Hebrews were commanded. If that cannot be achieved, then everything built by our Jewish nation will dissolve and scatter like the sands of the desert.

    My understanding of all the above, plus having lived most of my life in a vast but rapidly-dissolving empire, partially explains why I have no interest whatsoever in democracy, which, I think, has no real future, possibly other than in totally mono-cultural and relatively isolated societies. But Israel is not Iceland, and shall never be so.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  11. Israeli politicians in deep trouble slide to the Left. It happened with Netanyahu, with Sharon and now with Lieberman. Israel’s leftist media will never present a pro-Zionist platform during the campaign season. All of which benefits the Left.

  12. Those items when caught in foul territory, most of the time they are there, work hard to convince the extreme renegades in the courtier system and police that they changed their “views”. Just as Sharon tacked onto “disengagement” to cover criminal investigations, so do…. others.
    It is called “israeli demockratiahhhhaa”.