Lieberman on protests: Look at the full half of the cup

Israel’s economic stability is a big asset, and it shouldn’t be harmed by making haphazard decisions to achieve industrial quiet.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
August 7, 2011 23:37
3 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman [file]

Foreign Minsiter Avigdor Lieberman 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Uriel Sinai)

Lieberman started his Knesset press conference on Sunday by complaining about being misquoted when he relayed foreign ministers telling him at an OECD conference in Paris that Israel’s housing woes were “problems of the rich.”

Lieberman didn’t like it that media outlets attributed the quotes to him.

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But he himself used the press conference to defend Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s policies, accuse the press of playing up the protests and to remind Israelis that their lives were relatively good compared to those in other countries.

“The cup can be seen as half full or half empty,” Lieberman said.

“It’s important to remember that the full cup is there. Israel’s economic stability is a big asset, and it shouldn’t be harmed by making haphazard decisions to achieve industrial quiet.”

Lieberman related his difficulty getting into a cafe in Tel Aviv’s trendy Neveh Tzedek neighborhood during Saturday night’s protest. The cafes were full of young people, not tycoons, he said.

The foreign minister said that while the problems facing the protesters were real, other sectors also had legitimate demands and it would be wrong to cut defense spending or increase the national debt.

He suggested choosing four or five of the protesters’ demands to address now and dealing with the rest in the future.

“Everyone is right: the doctors, the farmers, teachers, social workers and police,” he said. “The question is what we do with all the correct claims together.”

Lieberman suggested immediately building 4,000 housing units in the Negev and the Galilee that have already been approved, as a first step toward solving the housing shortage.

He also urged the construction of 1,000 public housing units annually over the next three years for pensioners and the disabled.

An Israel Beiteinu bill will be voted on when the Knesset returns from its summer recess that would pay soldiers the average national salary during their last three months of mandatory service. His party “won’t concede or compromise” on the issue, Lieberman said.

While other right-wing politicians have blamed the housing shortage on US President Barack Obama’s demands for a settlement freeze, Lieberman did not call for building in Judea and Samaria until he was asked specifically about the matter. The resident of Nokdim in Gush Etzion said he did not see a reason not to build in settlement blocs, singling out Ma’aleh Adumim and Givat Ze’ev.

Asked whether there should be a national-unity government and if Israel Beiteinu was ready for elections, Lieberman said he did not believe Kadima would join the government and that even though polls showed his party was doing well, an election at this stage would be wrong for the country.

Lieberman spoke out against those who are trying to “hitch a ride on the protests.”

“We shouldn’t depress one another, and the press shouldn’t raise waves of self-depression,” he said. “The coverage has been one-sided.”

“The protests are a sign that the problems are real – it’s not just screamers, it’s not Woodstock,” Lieberman added.

“Many ministers talked about these issues long before the protests, but the bureaucracy was stronger than the ministers.

“We must decide what to fix first, and over what time frame,” he said.

Although mistakes had been made, the prime minister was “handling a complicated situation well.”

He rejected accusations from critics such as outgoing Finance Ministry director-general Haim Shani that Netanyahu had “shot from the hip” with too many of his solutions to the housing crisis,” Lieberman said.

“I just say we should look at the entire picture and not enter national depression. We have a lot to be very proud of. It’s not that one day the screen fell and all was revealed to be black. It’s not right to look at it in the extreme way things have been portrayed.”

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.


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