Palestinians: Lieberman in Cabinet Means No Israeli Partner for Peace

The hard-liner's pending entry to the government 'is a message to the world that Israel prefers extremism, the occupation and settlements to a peace accord,' the Palestinian Foreign Ministry says.

Avigdor Lieberman arriving to a coalition negotiations meeting, May 19, 2016.
Emil Salman

The Palestinian authority is following the political developments in Israel and isn't hiding its surprise and disappointment from recent events, which started off by signaling a unity government may come together on the backdrop for a regional diplomatic move and ended with Avigdor Lieberman being offered the role of defense minister.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas' office and the top PLO leadership refrained from formally responding to reports of Lieberman's expected appointment, noting they would wait until the decision is formal.

But a senior Palestinian official didn’t hide his disappointment from the move, while also noting its public diplomacy potential for the Palestinians.

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Knesset

"There's no doubt that his appointment will serve us regarding the international community on a public diplomacy front. Lieberman, aside from his diplomatic positions and what he thinks of Palestinians, is also a settler, and so this is more proof to the international community that the emerging government, including the one leading it, isn't interested at all in an agreement. Therefore the world must stop reprimanding and take the initiative that will lead Israel to an agreement," he said.

Lieberman's decisions would have an immediate impact on settlement construction and the daily lives of Palestinians, he said, adding these may be devastating for Palestinians and could lead to a rise in unrest and lead to escalation.    

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Yisrael Beiteinu’s entry into Benjamin Netanyahu’s government would mean the Palestinian Authority had no real peace partner.

“The addition of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, headed by the extremist Avigdor Lieberman, to Netanyahu’s government is fresh proof that there is no real peace partner in Israel,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said Netanyahu’s offering Lieberman the defense portfolio “constitutes Netanyahu’s response to French, regional and international efforts to revive the peace process between the two sides.”

According to the ministry, Lieberman’s pending entry to the government “is a message to the world that Israel prefers extremism, the occupation and settlements to a peace accord. The international community must take responsibility and embark on a diplomatic and ethical initiative regarding the Palestinian people.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s offer to Lieberman is worrying Israeli Arabs, who fear that Yisrael Beiteinu's presence in the coalition would increase efforts to craft legislation they consider racist.

Lieberman’s election slogan during the 2015 election campaign was “Ariel for Israel; Umm al-Fahm for Palestine,” referring to a redrawing of the Israeli-West Bank border to decrease Israel’s Arab population.

Ariel, a settlement, is a largely Jewish city in the West Bank; Umm al-Fahm is a largely Arab city in Israel proper.

During the campaign, the election committee rejected a petition by MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint Arab List), an Umm al-Fahm resident, to ban the slogan.

“Lieberman holds a fascist worldview. A wide Jewish-Arab front to oppose him should now be established to protect what remains of Israel’s democracy,” Jabareen said about Lieberman joining a government that already includes right-winger Naftali Bennett.

“We’ll fight with all our might against the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Bennett government, waging a public campaign in the streets and appealing to international agencies.”