Avigdor Liberman speaks at the Saban Forum.
(photo credit: SABAN FORUM)
The US should establish a regional coalition to fight terrorism that would include, for the first time, Israel alongside moderate Arab states, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told The Jerusalem Post.
In an exclusive interview this week, Liberman, who became defense minister in May, spoke about the outcome of the Elor Azaria trial, the investigation against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ways Israel can work with US President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration. The full interview will appear in the “Frontlines” section of Friday’s Post.
According to Liberman, this coalition would be similar to the one the US established ahead of the First Gulf War in 1991, but would this time include Israel. He is also confident that Arab states that do not have formal ties with Israel would join and serve alongside the Jewish state.
“The moderate Arab world understands that the real threat against it is not Jews, Zionism or Israel, but rather the radicals in the Muslim world,” he said. “I think they would come to a coalition with us, under pressure from the United States.”
According to Liberman, this coalition would help not only in fighting terrorism but also in building trust between Israel and the Palestinians.
While declaring his support for a two-state solution, Liberman said that the model needs to shift from a state based on the “land for peace” model to one that includes swaps of land and populations.
In the interview, Liberman came out against unilateral action – being promoted by the Likud and Bayit Yehudi – to annex settlements, starting with Ma’aleh Adumim.
“Applying Israeli law cannot be done without agreement with the Americans,” he said, adding that Israel fought for eight years with President Barack Obama. Now, he said, there is an opportunity to start fresh with a new president.
Instead of taking unilateral action, Israel needs to coordinate with the US about building in settlement blocs, while at the same time implementing confidence-building measures for the Palestinians.
“We need to restore normal life for Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria and the Palestinians. We need to build in the settlement blocs... and [there is] no reason not to build an industrial zone in Turkimiya for the Palestinians,” he said.
Referring to Sunday’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem that murdered four soldiers, Liberman revealed that there are a few dozen Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who sympathize or identify with Islamic State, like the east Jerusalem resident who rammed his truck into the group of soldiers.
“We need to fight against them and arrest and isolate them,” he said. “It is clear that someone who identifies with ISIS will never be an activist in Peace Now. He will look for an opportunity to attack.
Every person like this is a time bomb.”
Turning to the verdict in the Azaria case, Liberman said he recommended to the family not to appeal the conviction. Liberman expressed confidence that, once there is a final verdict and sentencing, the IDF would reduce his sentence.
“If we want to help Elor Azaria – he was an exemplary soldier, and the terrorist he killed tried to kill another soldier – we need to try to find the best and shortest way to deal with this, and therefore I told the family not to continue with the trial and not to appeal,” he said.
Regarding the investigation against Netanyahu, Liberman said that, based on media reports, it does not seem that there is sufficient evidence of a crime to warrant an indictment.
“I can only guess from what I see in the media, but I find it hard to see how they would file an indictment based on what is leaked,” he said. “It could be that we need to argue about the ethical standards, but it does not seem criminal.”