Yisrael Beytenu MK Avigdor Liberman .
(photo credit: KOBI ZOLTAK)
In his first-ever interview with Palestinian media, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman promoted his plan for a two-state solution involving swaps of populated lands.
Liberman told the newspaper Al-Quds on Monday what has long been both his diplomatic plan and that of the Yisrael Beytenu party. It calls for the borders of the two-state solution to be drawn in such a way as to exclude the maximum amount of Israeli Arabs, who would become Palestinian citizens, and to include as many Israeli Jews as possible.
The best path forward, he said, “is an exchange of territories and population.”
Such a plan would put the settlement blocs within Israel’s final borders, but exclude some Arab areas of Israel.
“Why should the Triangle and Umm el-Fahm be part of Israel?” Liberman asked. “Why should I subsidize [Islamic Movement Northern Branch leader Raed] Salah and pay [MK] Haneen Zoabi [Joint List]?” However, Liberman cautioned, such a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have to be part and parcel of a larger comprehensive agreement with the Arab world. He also said that there is legal backing for his plan. When Liberman was foreign minister, he asked the office’s legal advisers for an opinion on the matter and received an affirmative response in writing.
In the interview, Liberman also said that should another war break out between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, it would be the last. The interview with Al-Quds is part of Liberman’s policy of circumventing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in dealing with the Palestinians, in that he is sending messages directly to the Palestinians through their press. This is part of a broader “carrot and stick” model Liberman introduced in August involving harsher punishments for villages from which terrorists originate and economic benefits for those that have not produced terrorists.
Former defense minister MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) took issue with this idea, saying that Liberman is showing he prefers Hamas.
“We must take advantage of the infrastructure of the PA and security cooperation with it to promote interim and long-term agreements,” Peretz said. “An interview with Liberman in a Palestinian newspaper is not a problem, but the security Israel deserves can only be achieved with a combination of an uncompromising fight against terrorism and a courageous diplomatic battle working toward a two-state solution for two peoples, with the Palestinian Authority and the international community’s cooperation.”
MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), a resident of Umm el-Fahm, spoke out against Liberman’s proposal for his hometown, saying that Liberman is inciting against and delegitimizing residents of the city and all Israeli Arabs.
“I don’t understand why we need to constantly be threatened with our citizenship being revoked, as if our citizenship is a kindness from Liberman and not a basic right in our homeland.
Everyone knows Liberman’s motives are racist and he wants to harm and weaken the Israeli-Arab public,” he said.
The PA’s Foreign Ministry said Liberman, whom they called the “Minister of War,” was proposing a plan that violates international law, the Geneva Conventions and signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
The interview, the ministry continued, was full of “delusions and racist opinions” meant primarily to shore up public opinion on the Israeli Right.
“On the one hand, Liberman proclaims that he is keen on a two-state solution, and on the other hand, he boasts that he is a settler, referring to possible scenarios that destroy the two-state solution and legitimize the occupation, opening the door to more settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, to accomplish his goals,” the PA Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry also called Liberman’s attempts to circumvent the PA “repugnant,” and said Liberman is “delusional in terms of his ability to find a Palestinian partner for peace on his terms...
[which are] a package of empty gestures, economic in their nature, as an alternative to ending the occupation.”
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassim said in response to Liberman’s statements that “it is the right of people under occupation... to possess the means of force, including military force, that enables the defense of its people against repeated Israeli aggression, and that is a right that is not up for negotiation or debate.”Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.