During the 1950s and the 1960s, before Avigdor Lieberman arrived in Israel, we dreamed about Cyprus. At the time we could travel to Cyprus, drink Coca-Cola (the company was boycotting Israel then) and buy an electric iron duty-free. The minister for strategic affairs is trying to restore this dream to us. Not because of Coca-Cola or the iron, but because of the model of dividing Cyprus into two political entities.
When Lieberman says we should be Cyprus, he is in effect saying that Israeli Jews are the Greek majority and Israeli Arabs are the Turkish minority. We should be aware that the Turks constitute a quarter of the inhabitants of Cyprus, with full geographical and political control over one-third of its area. The capital city of Nicosia is also divided between the Turks and the Greeks. When Lieberman chooses the Cypriot model, with his own hands he is laying the foundations for an independent Arab state in the Galilee, with northern Haifa as its capital. Lieberman is the founder of "Northern Israel."
The island of Cyprus, which attained independence in 1960, lived in a combined Greek-Turkish format only until July 1974. Then the Turks captured the northern third of the island. The Turkish inhabitants of the island were concentrated in the North, and the Greeks fled en masse to the South. A thick wall divides Nicosia, and a fence divides the island along its entire width. Over time, the conflict in Cyprus became insoluble. The Greek South prospered economically whereas the Turkish North became mired in poverty, dependent on the arms of the Turkish army for its security.
Over time, the united Cypriot identity dissolved, until it disappeared entirely. Two separate entities were created: Greek-Christian in the South and Turkish-Muslim in the North. In 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared, with its own president, government, parliament, courts and flag. The international boycott of northern Cyprus is gradually dissipating, and we can assume that eventually the Turkish region will become an independent country. In the same way as Ireland, Korea and Vietnam were divided, and in the same way as Iraq will probably be divided in the future, apparently Cyprus will be divided as well. The separation between the two nations on the island is what dictates the political separation.
That looks interesting to Israel's minister for strategic affairs. He wants to sever Israel's Arabs from its Jews. Since there is no possibility of forcing the Arab population to emigrate, certainly not to a Palestinian state that has yet to come into being, and whose future establishment is doubtful, we probably have to begin to concentrate the Arabs in a manner that will enable the future severance.
In that case, since the Galilee is the home of most of Israel's Arabs, the Bedouin in the South (who are nomads by nature in any case) will ride their camels northward, and the Jews of Kiryat Shmona (with the rest of the Jews in the Galilee) will replace them in the land-rich South. The new and beautiful Kiryat Shmona South will be built by Arcadi Gaydamak, Lieberman's friend, thereby enabling the Jews of the North to flee once and for all from the fury of Hassan Nasrallah's missiles. And thus, in accordance with the Cyprus format, there will be separation of the populations. The Israeli Arabs will quickly declare their independence, and as opposed to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, they will be recognized that same day by dozens of countries the world over.
Lieberman wants a "Cyprus Plan." That's the Cypriot model.
Israeli Arabs, for their part, should be the greatest supporters of the new strategic idea. "Northern Israel" will be given to them, and all of "Southern Israel," which will be entirely Jewish, will belong to the Jews.
Finally the Jews won't have to hear the call of the muezzin during the day and the celebratory shooting at weddings at night. And the Arabs of "Northern Israel" will be able to travel on public transportation on Shabbat and will no longer be forced to sing "Hatikvah." As in Cyprus, the Israeli Arabs will appoint a president for themselves, declare a parliament of their own, choose a flag and support Lieberman's strategic plan.
No other person in the world will give Israeli Arabs independence. Lieberman is their Theodor Herzl. He is willing to do anything necessary in order to get them out of his sight. His "Cyprus Plan" is their "Balfour Plan" (the 1917 British declaration of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine). We wish them luck.
Dr. Liel teaches at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, at Tel Aviv University and at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. The conflict in Cyprus is one of his areas of expertise.
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