The real Avigdor Lieberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

The great Media Fraternity of Israel-Haters has turned its demonization engine in a new direction, and focused it squarely upon Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Adjectives such as ‘racist’, ‘fascist’, ‘ultranationalist’, ‘thuggish’ (all of these are from recent major media ‘news’ articles) are gleefully applied along with the usual ‘hawkish’ and ‘far-right’. In addition to the personal abuse, Lieberman is accused of renouncing prior agreements with the Palestinian Authority (PA), failing to support a two-state solution, and advocating the expulsion of Arabs from Israel. All of this is demonstrably untrue. Apparently one can say anything at all about Mr. Lieberman.

What did he do to deserve this? Start with renouncing agreements and the two-state solution. Here’s  what Lieberman said in his inaugural speech as Foreign Minister:

There is one document that binds us and it is not the Annapolis Conference. That has no validity. When we drafted the basic government policy guidelines, we certainly stated that we would honor all the agreements and all the undertakings of previous governments. The continuity of government is respected in Israel. I voted against the Road Map, but that was the only document approved by the Cabinet and by the Security Council – I believe it was Resolution 1505. It is a binding resolution and it binds this government as well.

The Israeli government never approved Annapolis, neither the Cabinet nor the Knesset, so anyone who wants to amuse himself can continue to do so. I have seen all the proposals made so generously by Ehud Olmert, but I have not seen any results.

What actually happened — or didn’t happen, to be precise — at the Annapolis conference was that Israel and the PA were unable to reach an agreement because the PA refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, insisted on a right of return for the descendants of Palestinian refugees, and demanded all of East Jerusalem.

The “Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict“, which was accepted by the Sharon government (although with some reservations), leads directly to a Palestinian state in its final phase. It makes certain demands on the PA in the first phase, including ending violence, terrorism and incitement against Israel, and establishing an effective security apparatus to suppress terrorist elements.

What Lieberman opposes — and what most proponents of the ‘Annapolis process’ support — is the short-circuiting of the first phases of the Roadmap, in which the Palestinians actually have to do something other than take US and EU aid, and the acceleration of the later phases in which Israel withdraws and the Palestinian state is created. He wants, in other words, to keep the “performance-based” part of it.

Now let’s get to the ‘racism’. Lieberman is famous for having semi-seriously called for all Israeli citizens to take a ‘loyalty oath’. Of course it is aimed at Israeli Arabs — although I strongly doubt that all the Jewish members of the Ha’aretz editorial board could honestly sign such a document — but one only needs to look at the actions of some of the radicalized Israeli Arabs to understand why he said this.

He’s also supposedly advocated the ‘transfer’ or even expulsion of Israeli Arabs from Israel. Well, not exactly. Lieberman proposed a land and population swap in which heavily Arab areas inside Israel would become part of the PA while areas in the West Bank with large numbers of Jews would be appended to Israel. Israeli Arabs opposed the idea vehemently — and not only because they enjoy the economic benefits and freedom of being Israelis. A more important reason is that they believe that what we call Israel actually belongs to them, and they should remain part of it — albeit as a ruling majority instead of a minority. In any event, whether or not the proposal is a good idea, it is hardly racist.

I should add also that supporters of the PA — whose position is that no Jews may live in ‘Palestinian’ areas — and of Hamas — whose position is that Jews should be killed — are hardly in a position to make accusations of racism.

Lieberman’s basic position — with which I wholeheartedly agree — is that additional concessions by Israel do not bring peace closer, but actually drive it farther away. Here’s more from his inaugural speech:

I think that we have been disparaging many concepts, and we have shown the greatest disdain of all for the word “peace.” The fact that we say the word “peace” twenty times a day will not bring peace any closer. There have been two governments here that took far-reaching measures: the Sharon government and the Olmert government. They took dramatic steps and made far-reaching proposals. We saw the Disengagement and the Annapolis Conference.

Yisrael Beiteinu was not then part of the coalition, Avigdor Liberman was not the foreign minister and, even if we had wanted to, we would have been unable to prevent peace. But none of these far-reaching measures have brought peace. To the contrary. We have seen that, after all the gestures that we made, after all the dramatic steps we took and all the far-reaching proposals we presented, in the past few years this country has gone through the Second War in Lebanon and Operation Cast Lead – and not because we chose to. I have not seen peace here. It is precisely when we made all the concessions that I saw the Durban Conference, I saw two countries in the Arab world suddenly sever relations, recalling their ambassadors – Mauritania and Qatar. Qatar suddenly became extremist.

We are also losing ground every day in public opinion. Does anyone think that concessions and constantly saying “I am prepared to concede,” and using the word “peace” will lead to anything? No, that will just invite pressure, and more and more wars. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” – if you want peace, prepare for war; be strong.

We definitely want peace, but the other side also bears responsibility. We have proven our desire for  peace more than any other country in the world. No country has made concessions the way Israel has. Since 1977, we have given up areas of land three times the size of the State of Israel. So we have proven the point.

The Oslo process began in 1993. Sixteen years have passed since then, and I do not see that we are any closer to a permanent settlement.

I believe that Lieberman understands the reason for this: that concessions can only draw two sides together when there is a point somewhere in the middle where they both can stand. Today there is no such point. The Palestinians cannot accept that there is a Jewish state. Period.

Israel, understandably, will never be able to come to this point, so concessions only serve to damage security and make war more likely.

These are not the ideas of an ‘ultranationalist’ or a racist thug. These are the ideas of a pragmatist who, unlike many Israeli politicians, is able to see the situation as it is — and it isn’t encouraging — and does not feel bound to repeat the nonsense formulas so beloved by the UN, the EU or the US State Department.


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