‘Ariel for Israel, Umm el-Fahm to Palestine’ is Yisrael Beytenu’s campaign slogan, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman revealed at a press conference Thursday.
Liberman said that, in debating what to emphasize in the party’s campaign, he came across a video of Muhammad Zoabi, an Israeli-Arab teen and cousin of MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad), who spoke out as a Zionist during Operation Protective Edge and went into hiding because of threats to his life.
“We talk about Jews in Europe who are afraid to wear a kippa or peyot [sidelocks]... What angered me is that a supporter of Israel had to run away with no protection and was made an anathema to his society,” Liberman said.
The Yisrael Beytenu leader contrasted the younger Zoabi’s situation with MK Zoabi, who “said kidnapping the three boys [in Gush Etzion last summer] is legitimate resistance with her head high, defended by the law.
“This norm has to change,” he declared.
As such, Liberman said Israeli Arabs who are loyal can stay Israeli, but “there is no reason for [Haneen] Zoabi, [UALTa’al MK Ahmed] Tibi or the northern branch of the Islamic Movement to remain Israeli citizens” when a Palestinian state is formed.
Liberman asserted that the current conflict is not between Israel and the Palestinians; rather, it is between Jews and Arabs. He listed several incidents of Arab violence against Jews before the State of Israel’s establishment, adding that no one talked about a Palestinian nation at the time.
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The foreign minister repeated his analysis that there are three layers of conflict – the Arab world, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs – saying he is most concerned about the third.
“Yisrael Beytenu is the only party with a pragmatic approach from the Right, the nationalist camp, that will have a Jewish state in the maximum amount of land and [Jewish] people,” he said. “[Labor leader Isaac] Herzog proposed his ideas at Camp David with [thenprime minister Ehud] Barak [in 2000], and [Tzipi] Livni did at Annapolis [in 2007], and they failed. [Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali] Bennett’s plan will lead to either a binational state or apartheid.”
A second campaign slogan presented at the press conference was “Tachles Liberman,” using a Yiddish word that roughly translates to “the bottom line.” It is reminiscent of the party’s past slogan: “Our word is our bond.”
“We’re a consistent party. I don’t know how to zigzag. This is the party line with which we always identified,” Liberman said.
Liberman also said he and the members of his party will no longer speak of the corruption investigation in which Deputy Minister Faina Kirschenbaum was implicated.
“Ask us about it only after there is a conviction or exoneration from the court – we won’t accept one from the press,” he said, after repeating that he found the timing of publicizing the probe troublesome.
As for the possibility of joining a left-wing government, Liberman said he did not commit to anyone and that he would decide based on the guidelines for the coalition.
However, Liberman set conditions that would make it difficult to join either a right-wing or a left-wing coalition.
First, Liberman said Yisrael Beytenu won’t join a coalition with Livni’s usual positions.
Then he added: “I heard [that Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Bennett promised the haredim that they would cancel parts of the haredi enlistment law and conversion reforms. We won’t be there.”
Still, Liberman praised Labor’s newly elected slate, especially in that it left out two primary candidates who focused on fighting corruption, MK Moshe Mizrahi and former Barak adviser Eldad Yaniv, whom he called “a professional traitor.” This was proof that “even Labor doesn’t like snitches.”
According to Liberman, a poll sponsored by Yisrael Beytenu showed it will get eight seats in the next Knesset, and his goal is 16.
On Sunday, the party’s selection committee will finish putting together its list for the next Knesset and submit it to Liberman.
On Monday, the central committee will vote on it.
Liberman said there were 65 applicants to be Yisrael Beytenu MKs – “men, women, Druse, Muslims, Jews, mayors, kibbutzniks and professors – the whole spectrum of Israeli society.”
“I usually accept the committee’s recommendations in full.
Last time I made one change,” Liberman added, a reference to removing then-deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon.
MK Zoabi responded to Liberman’s campaign, saying: “Maybe I shouldn’t have been born at all or been as far away as possible, to make Liberman and every other racist happy.
“What can I do, this is my homeland, unlike Liberman, whose homeland is Russia,” she said of the minister who was born in Moldova. “The difference is that he denies his homeland and I do not. I don’t have any conflicts between the place I was born and the place where I will continue living.”
Zoabi posited that Liberman is blurring Israel’s true history in which its natives were exiled by immigrants and a majority became a minority.
“This minority fights and will continue to fight stubbornly for its rights facing an ignorant racist like Liberman, the racist Center and the dormant, defeated, hypocritical Left,” she added.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said that “in Liberman’s transfer campaign [which] lashes out at Israel’s Arab citizens, the racist inciting Liberman jumped out, despite his attempts to be nicer and move to the Center in recent months.”
Gal-On added that Liberman’s ideas send a message to Israeli Arabs that they are merchandise that can be sold.
Givat Haviva, an NGO that works for Jewish-Arab coexistence, came out against Liberman’s campaign.
“Liberman is drowning [politically], so he went for his last option – racism,” Givat Haviva director-general Yaniv Sagi said. “Liberman’s incitement encourages violence and hatred and undermines our coexistence.”
Sagi added that if there was a vote on who should remain in Israel – Umm el-Fahm residents or Liberman, the latter could lose.
Construction Minister Uri Ariel said at an event in Harish, which is near Umm el-Fahm: “There is no Palestine and no land in the Land of Israel will be given to anyone.
“We don’t have a partner, and everyone understands that. This whole land is ours. We are building it with God’s help and developing it for the good of all our citizens,” he added.
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