Monster Borders Are What Avigdor Lieberman Wants

If Jewish fingers can be stuck deep into the West Bank to grant 400,000 settlers a Jewish homeland, the Palestinians should be able to stick fingers into Israel.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Avigdor Lieberman couldn’t have been more clear when he said he wouldn’t support a peace deal with the Palestinians “without a swap of land and populations.” As the foreign minster put it, in such an agreement, "nobody will be expelled or banished, but the border will move to the other side of Highway 6."

Lieberman proposes three historic novelties. One is a “transfer package,” not in the brutal Stalinist mode, but the removal of territory along with its inhabitants. The second is the abrogation of the sanctity of the nation’s soil. The third is the end of the bluff of “security borders” while adopting a new concept of “racial borders.”

This is the clearest blueprint ever proposed by an Israeli leader. More importantly, Lieberman recognizes the need for a political settlement to the conflict, unlike Netanyahu, who’s trying not to outline Israel’s borders. But Lieberman is laying down a clear map with at least one border, along Highway 6, as though it were a river or ridge that could serve as a natural boundary.

A border, according to Lieberman, is a flexible entity, not sacred or subject to divine promises. Its purpose is merely to determine the volume of the cultural-religious-nationalist vessel that contains the stuff of every nation. Therefore, a smaller vessel with fewer murky sediments is preferable to a large one where suspect objects float around. This is the vision of every nation-state – to be the state of only one nation.

The only flaw in this plan, which is amenable to correction, is that the immediate gains are modest. Israel would get rid of only 300,000 Arabs and still be left with 1.3 million “disloyal” citizens – past or potential “terrorists.” These people would now have a diaspora of their own, along with the refugees.

Luckily, the solution is embedded in Lieberman’s proposal. Since borders aren’t sacred, what would prevent Israel from redrawing them and adding Nazareth, Sakhnin, Kafr Manda and other Arab communities to the Palestinian state? If Jewish geographic fingers can be stuck deep into the West Bank to grant 400,000 settlers a Jewish homeland, it would be just for the Palestinians to stick similar fingers into Israel. This would be a tortuously long border, giving the state a monstrous shape. But it would be a purely Jewish monster.

The “Highway 6” border that would replace the Green Line has added political value. Leftist strongholds like kibbutzim Bahan, Ein Hashofet, Ramat Hashofet, Dalia and Gal’ed lie east of Highway 6 and would thus be transferred to the Palestinian state. And Katzir-Harish with its multitudes of ultra-Orthodox, detested by Lieberman, could be thrown into the mix. This would reduce the number of Knesset seats of the Arabs and others who spoil the consensus.

Also, Israel would be rid of many poor people who distort the statistics; that’s why the government adds the term “without Arabs or ultra-Orthodox” when it wants to show off its successes. Israel would simply drop them into the Palestinian state, as it has always done with expired medication and cars that can no longer be sold in Israel.

Countries don’t usually get a second chance to shape their identities or alter the complement of people living within them. They’re stuck with what they have and need to adjust their laws and ways of life to be considered moral and decent countries that take good care of the minorities they can’t digest. But from time to time a strong and courageous leader appears and tries to break the rules.

The Soviet Union and Germany had leaders like this, and ancient Israel had kings who purged the land of its non-Jewish inhabitants. We’re lucky that in this generation, too, we have a fearless leader who treats citizens as commodities whose only purpose is to be fodder for the state.

Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, June 2013.Credit: Emil Salman

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