Lieberman: Mitzna Fit to Be Mayor of Jenin

The right-wing National Union coalition, comprising Moledet, Tekuma and Yisrael Beiteinu, officially launched its election campaign yesterday with a frontal attack on the new chairman of the Labor Party.

"Amram Mitzna can be mayor of Jenin, Bethelem or Halhul, but not prime minister of Israel," MK Avigdor Lieberman said at a press conference at Beit Sokolov in Tel Aviv.

"Just as Hezbollah established a kingdom of terror in south Lebanon, so will Mitzna establish a kingdom of terror in the Gaza Strip and later in all of Judea and Samaria," said Lieberman, referring to Mitzna's foreign policy plans as "the transfer of Jews" and a "surrender to terror." (Mitzna has promised to withdraw IDF troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip within a year of taking office.)

In response to questions about Moledet's call for expelling Palestinians from the territories, MK Benny Elon explained that according to the "transfer" his party advocates, "Israel would propose a consensual population transfer of refugees from camps in Gaza and Judea and Samaria." In addition, incentives would be offered to encourage Palestinian emigration.

Lieberman also called for "restraining" the Arab leadership in Israel. According to Lieberman, the October 2000 clashes between Israeli Arabs and police forces in northern Israel was not a passing episode and the participation of Arab citizens in terror attacks is not that of a few stray "weeds," but is a growing phenomenon.

"The identification among Israeli Arabs with all of the terror organizations - especially among their leadership in the Knesset - creates a large problem for the State of Israel," Lieberman said. "The problem of Israeli Arabs is more serious than that of the Palestinians. It needs to be taken into consideration, and the extremist leadership in the Knesset needs to be restrained. We are acting to have the Islamic Movement and Knesset member Azmi Bashara outlawed."

Lieberman also said that he "would be happy to receive the treasury portfolio" in a Likud government. If a national unity government is created, he added, the Likud should first approach potential coalition partners on the right before entering into discussions with the Labor Party. In fact, Lieberman expressed doubts about the possibility of forming a unity government in light of Mitzna's views and said that the "national" camp should be in charge of the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry.

Lieberman, who immigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1978 and led Yisrael Beiteinu into the 15th Knesset, said yesterday that he preferred to compete in the upcoming elections as part of a wider front, instead of functioning as a narrower, sectoral-based party. "We don't want to be lobbyists in the Knesset, but rather create an alternative government," he said.

Still, Russian-speaking immigrants remain an important target constituency. Lieberman repeated his call for former Prisoner of Zion and chairman of Yisrael b'Aliyah Natan Sharansky to join the National Union coalition. But a spokesman for the rival immigrant party responded, "There is no reason to leave an ethnic ghetto only to enter an ideological ghetto of transfer."