Kadima, the party of Shimon Peres and Haim Ramon, has decided not to follow in the footsteps of Labor Party chair MK Amir Peretz and Meretz chair Yossi Beilin. The latter two have declared that if Lieberman's party Yisrael Beiteinu is in the coalition, their parties won't be.
Kadima, the party that apparently will put together the coalition, has adopted a policy of ignoring the party of transfer. Senior members of Kadima are prepared to say only that all of the reports of a coalition with Lieberman are merely journalistic speculation and that no discussion has been held on the makeup of the next government.
Hebrew-speaking disciples of Yisrael Beiteinu and supporters of Kadima are familiar with Lieberman Lite, the one who contents himself with modest swaps of territory and promises to bring law and order to the streets. The extremist messages are saved for the election campaign in Russian. Immigrants from the Confederation of Independent States get Lieberman at his best - distilled racism. Lieberman does not repeat for Hebrew-speakers things he said in May 2004 to the local weekly "Tel Aviv" - essentially, that it is necessary to transfer 90 percent of Israel's Arabs to the territories, including residents of Acre, Jaffa and Sakhnin. As the refined Lieberman says, "They have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost."
To the "enlightened" voters who believe that Lieberman will kill two birds with one stone - the demographic problem and the problem of the settlement blocs - Lieberman sends Yisrael Hasson, number 3 in the Yisrael Beiteinu list. Hasson is a former deputy head of the Shin Bet security service, which serves as a free entry ticket to the Israeli salon.
But Hasson, too, does not talk about his private business or his attitude toward exchanging territories along with their populations in his many media interviews. Hasson guards the secret of his connections to the gasoline mogul in the territories, Ovadiah Koko, who was suspected in a sting operation and the trade of fictitious receipts to the extent of NIS 250 million, and escaped prison by the skin of his teeth (a payment of NIS 12.5 million to the tax authorities, including a NIS 2.5 million fine; see the investigative report by Uri Blau, Haaretz, January 6).
Hasson does not share with his public the story of the conversation that was held in the middle of 2000, in negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian teams, about trading Umm al-Fahm for Ma'aleh Adumim. It was in fact Saeb Erekat who asked the Israelis what they thought of the idea. The head of the team, Oded Aran, replied: "You don't want to know what the results of a referendum to determine the position of Israeli Arabs would be on this proposal." Hasson, who was a member of the team, supported Aran's assessment unreservedly.
Lieberman does not need the agreement of the Arabs of Israel to exchange their identity cards for Palestinian IDs. But Lieberman's voters should know that even if their hero comes into power, it is doubtful that he will be able to realize their dream of waking up to the feeling of an Arab-free reality. Professor Yitzhak Zamiar, a retired Supreme Court justice and former attorney general, has told Haaretz he doubts that a law revoking the citizenship of Israelis based on their ethnic origins would stand the test of the High Court of Justice.
Professor Amnon Rubinstein, the 2006 Israel Prize laureate for law and president of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, does not believe that it will be possible to transfer citizens to outside the state borders without allowing them to settle elsewhere in the country if they so choose. In his book "The Constitutional Law of the State of Israel" (Schocken Publishing House), Rubinstein writes, "Harm to the rights of the citizens who live in territories whose sovereignty has been transferred, and the insult that would be caused to the Arab population in Israel, necessitate relinquishing the method of population and territory exchanges in the name of preserving the Jewish majority or bringing Jewish settlements in the territories into Israeli sovereignty."
Rubenstein goes on to note that following a Knesset decision in 1999 that canceling the applicability of Israeli law, court jurisdiction and administration in any parts of Jerusalem, including those that were annexed in 1967, requires more than an ordinary Knesset law - it would necessitate a basic law approved by a Knesset majority. This applies even more so to relinquishing territories that have been under Israeli sovereignty since the day the state was established. Then perhaps, in the framework of the law and order he is promising to impose here, Lieberman will send both the High Court of Justice and the Knesset to get lost.
Lobby in the crosshairs
The combination of an initiative aimed against Hamas - a party that is officially defined as a "terror organization" - and a Congressional election year should have insured that for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), passing a law limiting the aid to the Hamas government and associated bodies would be as easy as cutting through butter with a knife. And now, to the great surprise of the heads of the strongest pro-Israel lobby in Washington, nearly two months after they planted the proposal for the law with their obedient servants in both the House and the Senate, and two weeks after they sent out 2,000 activists to assault Capitol Hill, the proposal is still stuck deep in the pipeline.
Thus far about 150 members the House of Representatives have signed the proposal, about 70 short of the required number. On the weekend, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that AIPAC had distributed to its activists a panicked bulletin warning them that if the missing votes are not recruited by next Wednesday, the initiative will be lost.
An aide to a member of Congress told the Jewish weekly Forward that apparently the penny has finally dropped for the elected representatives of the American public. They have started to realize that the constant harassment of Arabs is liable to damage American interests in the Middle East, especially in Iraq.
It is possible that he, like many of his colleagues in the power centers of Washington, has read a new study on the pro-Israel lobby published by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Two professors, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, dared to put in writing things that are often heard in closed rooms now that the U.S. has sunk into the Iraqi swamp. The group of neo-conservatives that pushed President George W. Bush into this swamp has become the punching bag of U.S. academia and media, and it was only a question of time before it became Israel's turn to pay the price of the battle waged by Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and their colleagues in the pro-Israel lobby and its allies on the Christian right.
The start of the trial of the two AIPAC men accused of handing secret information over to Israel looks like the perfect timing for the publication of one of the most critical documents ever written at a first-rank academic institution about U.S. policy toward Israel (the main points of the article appear on The London Review of Books' Web site). The authors argue that the American support for Israel was one of the main reasons for the Al-Qaida terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
"There is no question," they write, "that many Al-Qaida leaders, including Bin Laden, are motivated by Israel's presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians."
They note that American public opinion polls and research institutes show that the one-sided policy toward Israel is attracting fire against the United States on the Arab street and helping fanatics like Bin Laden to recruit activists. The researchers argue that Israel is detrimentally dragging the United States into a struggle against Iran. Moreover, they state that the nuclear weaponry in Israel's hands is one of the reasons that Iran, like other countries in the region, also wants to equip itself with a bomb. In their opinion, the American threat to depose the governments of those states increases nuclear appetites.
The two do not refrain from mentioning that Israel consistently bites the American hand that feeds it - usually, contrary to U.S. interests. With its one hand, Israel is establishing settlements, contrary to the wishes of the Untied States, and with the other it is smiting the Palestinians and tearing up American peace plans one after the other.
Once the pictures of American soldiers dying in Baghdad and of hungry Palestinian children in Gaza schools obliterate the pictures of the Israeli children killed in buses in Jerusalem and the Qassams in Sderot, the new government in Israel may well discover a different America.