Israeli Defense Minister to Arab Political Party: 'You Are All War Criminals'

Avigdor Lieberman's comments come during a Knesset discussion on a no-confidence motion proposed by the party, which said Israel's policy constitutes war crimes

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks at a question and answer session at the Knesset, June 5, 2017.
Emil Salman

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called all members of the Joint List, the Arab-dominated political party, war criminals on Monday. Lieberman's statement came during a debate at the Knesset on a no-confidence motion submitted by the party. Several Joint List lawmakers walked out of the plenum in response.

The no-confidence motion argued that the government “is advancing a policy based on war crimes.” During the debate, Lieberman said, “Every day in the Middle East some 400 people are murdered in Arab countries, with close to 1,000 people wounded. In Yemen 160 people are being murdered every day. Who cares? Look at how many terror attacks there are every day. Is someone talking about war crimes? Those who are sitting here are war criminals, the entire Joint List are war criminals.”

Lieberman also referenced his remarks from Sunday, when he had called to boycott the Arabs of Wadi Ara, saying that they “do not belong to the State of Israel.”

During a later debate, Lieberman added, “I’m looking at the terrorists who came from Wadi Ara in recent years ... When I look at the number of people involved in terror and who were arrested before carrying out attacks, they are not individuals and not on the margins. It’s very worthwhile to make it clear that we aren’t prepared to reconcile ourselves to this and that they have to decide which flag they want to hold.

“The right to protest is a basic right and it doesn’t matter if it’s left or right. But this is an argument about our very existence. What did the lawmaker from the Joint List say? That we will never agree to the State of Israel being a Zionist and Jewish state. This is a phenomenon that we must resist.”

In response to a question by Meretz’s Esawi Freige, who was angry that Lieberman never called for a boycott of Jerusalem or Rishon Letzion after terror attacks were perpetrated by Jews from there in recent years, Lieberman stressed these were only a few individuals, and that everyone in Israel had condemned Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the murderers of the Dawabsheh family of Duma. There had never been impassioned demonstrations in support of Amir or any others, and there had never been elected officials or spiritual leaders preaching to commit violence, as occurs in Umm al-Fahm, he said.

Every society has “wild weeds,” Lieberman said, but as long as the religious and political leadership condemns them, it’s a very different situation. “Without loyalty there is no citizenship,” he said, adding that he expects loyalty from people who grew up in Israel, got an education here and enjoy the freedom of living in a democratic state.

At the end of his remarks, Lieberman again attacked Joint List lawmakers, saying, “Look how much you did in Syria. Naturally Hamas would allow you to open your mouths. Certainly in Yemen. Here you exploit the weaknesses and advantages of a democratic state to destroy it from within. I have no illusions. You are here by mistake and there will be a time when you won’t be here.”

Haneen Zoabi, who presented the no-confidence motion on behalf of the Joint List, said, “This government is a criminal government. The prime minister should be put on trial at the International Criminal Court at The Hague because he is a war criminal, together with his coalition, which kills children, steals land and persecutes human rights organizations. In this country evil is the name of the game; it’s the accepted norm that has always characterized its policy. Occupation is always aggressive, violent, illegitimate and a basis for war crimes.”