Lieberman Is a Man of His Word - When It Comes to Population Transfer

It's easy to praise the way Israel's foreign minister has changed some of his positions, but he's still a racist.

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

Like many others, I want U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to succeed. Like many others, I look on in disgust and pity at Likud’s poster children trying to trap Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and prevent him from taking a step that will lead to an agreement.

Like many others, I’m waiting for a reasonable leader from the right to push the premier to do the right thing. And I think many people think that a real leader is emerging from the darkness, a man of his word – none other than Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

It’s clear that the Lieberman who addressed the ambassadors’ conference Sunday was a different Lieberman, one conducting a campaign of persuasion, flattery and promises in an effort to lift the American embargo against him. Thus the man who once said an agreement could only be discussed in another hundred years, the man who has given Netanyahu the cold shoulder recently, suddenly says there’s no alternative to the Kerry proposals because the other options are worse.

Nothing’s easier than to say the image of Lieberman as a man of his word is a misrepresentation. Nothing’s easier than to praise the way he has changed his positions in response to the constraints of the times. But I’m not convinced. I still believe that Lieberman is a man of his word, even over time. Years ago, when I was asked of my impression after the two of us had talked politics, I said he’d be willing to accede to most of the Palestinians’ demands if they took the Arab-populated cities of Taibeh and Umm al-Fahm with them.

Now there will arise new defenders who will celebrate Lieberman’s courage for daring to swim against the murky stream that prevails on the right. They’ll hide what he said about “land and population swaps,” his condition for any agreement. The details of the agreement don’t interest him much. He has turned into a clear representative of Israeli racism, arrogance and ascendancy.

Israeli Arabs are part of the Israeli community. They’re far more Israeli than the non-Jewish immigrants who came here to integrate in a homeland they previously had never even thought about. Talal Mahagneh, my friend from Umm el-Fahm, is an integral part of our lives. His family set down roots in his village hundreds of years ago, and he’s an Israeli in every sense, even if he and his friends don’t feel an aura of holiness when we sing our very Jewish national anthem.

Lieberman’s efforts against Israeli Arabs were expressed in his pressure to draft Arabs into the army under impossible geopolitical conditions, to raise the electoral threshold to reduce their Knesset representation, and to discriminate against them because they’re not army veterans. The country’s founders were aware of the problems in establishing a Jewish-democratic state in a place were there are Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians. That’s why they made sure to declare that all Israeli citizens have equal rights. But it’s an imaginary equality.

Lieberman’s challenge, therefore, might confuse many people. He supports Kerry’s efforts and has thus become a target of the Yesha Council of settlers and its people in the Knesset, but he believes with all his heart in population transfer without even asking the opinion of those who would be affected.

Unfortunately, Kerry, given his partners, might be impressed by Lieberman’s ideological renaissance. Maybe this is because he doesn’t know that Lieberman is a man of his word, and when he talks about transfer, he means exactly that, not an agreement.

Foreign Minister Lieberman and U.S. counterpart John Kerry meet in Jerusalem, Jan 3, 2014.Credit: Noam Moskovitz, Foreign Ministry

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