ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Afraid of Lieberman?

Afraid of Lieberman?

31 October 2006

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Who is afraid of Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitainu faction who were voted into the Kadima led coalition yesterday? Apparently quite a few people are and for good reason, but not particularly for the immediate images coming to mind. He is labeled a “fascist” and a “racist” by the Left. Akiva Eldar, writing in the left wing daily Haaretz sees him as worse than Austria’s extreme right wing politician, Joerg Haider. Despite the resignation of Minister Ofir Pines-Paz the overwhelming majority of the Labor central committee decided to stay in the coalition. This appears to be a contradiction for a social democratic party with quite a few Arab members.

The point is that Lieberman and his party advocate politically “incorrect” ideas which deep down many believe to be valid. Furthermore he was in the Sharon led government which gave its blessings to the Road Map calling for a two-state solution with the Palestinians. As for racism, he does not consider the Arabs to be inferior in any way, rather he sees them as a unified national adversary posing a danger to Israel’s continued existence. In regard to Israeli Arabs, or “Palestinian Arabs with Israeli citizenship” as the younger generation refers to themselves, he demands that should one betray the State of Israel, he should be tried for treason and suffer the maximum penalty and this goes especially for Knesset members who have sworn allegiance to the state.

Balad’s MK Azmi Bashara who has often met with Syrian and Hezbollah leaders in contradiction to Israeli law knows Lieberman has him and certain colleagues of his in mind. Bashara and certain other Arab MKs openly supported the Hezbollah and Hamas for years and even more so during this past summer’s war. Through interviews given on a regular basis they make it clear they favor the destruction of the Jewish State. Lieberman’s point needs to be considered seriously, after all most Israeli Jews do see the logic in prosecuting those who collaborate with Israel’s sworn enemies. Let us remember that Bashara & Co. did not meet with Hezbollah, Syrian and Hamas officials to broker a peace agreement.

Yisrael Beitainu (YB) favors a two-state solution but does not advocate Israel retaining all territories on its side of the 1949 – 67 armistice lines (the Green Line). YB believes certain Arab villages close to the old demarcation can be handed over to a future Palestinian State and in return Israel would annex Jewish settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion, Ariel, Givat Ze’ev and Ma’ale Adumim. YB sees a national conflict between the Jews and Palestinian Arabs and believes the two sides must be separated as much as possible. By reason it follows that there should be as few Arabs as possible in the Jewish State. After all, how many Jews will be residing in the Palestinian Arab State should there be conflict resolution?

YB not only sees a demographic threat by Israel’s Arabs leading to a bi-national state even should Israel withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), but believes the security threat is expanding as Israeli Arabs become increasingly radicalized in their support for the Hamas and Hezbollah. For example, in the Triangle region not far from Hadera, Lieberman would draw a final border leaving Um el-Fahum (whose city council is dominated by the Islamic Front) and several other large Israeli Arab villages on the Palestinian side of the border. The border would move, not the Arab population. These villagers would no longer live under what is often referred to as the “oppressive” and/or “racist” “Zionist entity”. The latest public opinion polls in Um el-Fahum show that 94% prefer to live in Israel. Lieberman’s understanding of a two-state solution forces many Israeli Arabs to face a very unpleasant contradiction. They demand full recognition of Arab/Palestinian - Moslem national and religious rights and equal rights for themselves in Israel’s democracy but with the greatest possible belligerence deny Jewish national rights. Yes, they are afraid of Lieberman and prefer to call him a “racist” and not confront his arguments and two-state national solution with borders reflecting demography.

One would think the Left which favors “two states for two peoples” would support Lieberman’s ideas. They probably do, but as “social democrats” attempting political correctness they must publicly “have reservations” concerning such a solution. If the Left advocates a Jewish, democratic state, then certainly none should be upset if Arab numbers dwindle in Israel due to the shifting of the final border demarcation with a Palestinian State. The Left is afraid of Lieberman since he forces them to confront themselves and their commitment to a solid Jewish majority in Israel. How far will the Left go in defending the citizenship rights of Israeli Arabs, many of whom demand the destruction of that same democratic (yet Jewish) state?

Lieberman came out of the Likud and the Right, but he, like PM Olmert and Kadima would recognize a Palestinian State. At the moment he rejects any unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, but ideologically YB favors relinquishing heavily populated Arab areas on both sides of the armistice line. Benyamin Netanyahu and the faltering Likud are afraid of Lieberman, their greatest political threat on the secular Right. Ideologically the Likud opposes a withdrawal, but on a practical level everyone knows they just want to get the right price.

The religious Right as represented by the National Religious Party (NRP) and National Union (NU) has much to fear from YB. They know that should Lieberman decide to support the removal of caravan outposts or even settlements in Judea and Samaria, it will be done – Ariel Sharon style, since he has the same bulldozer –brutish personal characteristics. They also cannot accuse YB of betrayal since he was never close with the NRP/NU nor did he delude them into thinking he supported the Greater Land of Israel as a policy objective.

And Kadima? They certainly support Lieberman’s ideas more than they are willing to admit. As far as they are concerned he strengthens a pragmatic center and says what many in Kadima think. Unlike Labor, neither are social democrats nor pretend to be so. YB can provide the force and revitalization lacking in Kadima. Is Olmert afraid of Lieberman? Will he draw off voters into Yisrael Beitainu? Probably, but right now Olmert is more afraid of his coalition falling apart, so he pulled off a slick political move and made Lieberman his minister for strategic planning (or whatever).

This is only the beginning and it promises to be interesting.