Lieberman followers debate how to enforce loyalty

Israel Beiteinu leader tells voters Likud would implement a loyalty test for citizens, without defining what that test would be.

February 8, 2009 23:58
3 minute read.
Lieberman followers debate how to enforce loyalty

lieberman new 248 88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Speaking at the party's final campaign rally in Haifa on Sunday night, Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman once again touched on his platform's cornerstone that has his party surging in the polls. "After the elections, we will introduce our citizen loyalty bill," Lieberman said to a roaring crowd. "We can't go on like this." But when it came to the enforcement of such loyalty - which in and of itself remains officially undefined - Israel Beiteinu's supporters themselves were somewhat unclear as to how such a policy would go forward. "They're not going to throw them straight into jail," said Arik Vexler, a Haifa resident who braved protesters from Haifa's Arab community - some of whom yelled slogans in Russian at rally-goers - outside the rally's entrance to get a glimpse of the man he's voting for on Tuesday. "It's more of a crack-down on those who break the law," he continued. "Take those protesters, for example. I mean, you're allowed to protest, but there has to be a limit. If you get caught at a protest doing something violent or illegal, the law applies to you as well, and he's [Lieberman] simply saying that he's going to enforce it." Nonetheless, Vexler said Israel Beiteinu's loyalty slogan was not the only reason he was supporting the party. "They're strong on everything, not just security and crime," Vexler said. "Lieberman also wants to give more education benefits to combat soldiers and things like that. That's why I'm voting for him." Others weren't so sure. "I think it's only for people who want to become citizens now," said Rafi, another party supporter. "If they want to have citizenship, they have to sign something that says they believe in Israel as a Jewish state. For the Arabs, I think the loyalty law is more to let them know that we're serious. We refuse to stand by any longer and watch them do whatever they want. As far as stopping them, I don't know exactly how they [the party] plans to do it, but I trust them - at least they're talking about it." But Lieberman articulated what some of his supporters couldn't on Sunday night, telling the crowd at the Haifa Theater that "the answer is clear. Without loyalty there can be no citizenship, and those who badmouth us only do it because they have no legitimate response." The Israel Beiteinu leader went on to say that the Likud Party would support his party's platform and implement a loyalty test for citizens, without defining what that test would be. "I'm pleased that the Likud is joining our initiative," Lieberman said. "And I ask myself why others in respected parties are driving themselves crazy trying to pick fights with us. We will not be dragged into fights." Uzi Landau, No. 2 on Israel Beiteinu's Knesset candidates list, also spoke at the rally, telling supporters that the game had changed since the campaign began. "I remember that preliminary polls showed us getting only eight mandates, and now they show a different story," Landau said. "This is happening because people in Israel are sick of leaders who say one thing and do another." The rally ended peacefully, as the protesters had been dispersed before the speakers concluded. Police arrested two men who refused to leave of their own accord. As the rally-goers filed out into the night, Haifa resident Michael Lavan told The Jerusalem Post that Lieberman's ideas of loyalty had less to do with protests and more to do with actual violence. "You should have seen Haifa during the war," Lavan said. "Every day they were throwing rocks - our neighbors, our Arab brothers - they turned on us in a heartbeat. That resonates here more than anything else. You see there are a lot of Russians here [at the rally], but they're not here because they're Russians, they're here because they live in Haifa, because they're Israelis who have had to deal with this problem for so long. It's like a disease, and Lieberman is the only one who's talking about it."

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