(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman toured the village of Ghajar on the Lebanese border Wednesday, and promised that the village would remain under Israeli control. He also had some harsh words for MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta'al) over statements he made Tuesday.
"Out central problem is not the Palestinians but Ahmed Tibi and his likes - they are more dangerous than Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad combined," Foreign Lieberman said on Wednesday, referring to the Tuesday speech of the Arab MK during the Fatah conference in Bethlehem, in which Tibi declared the Arab citizens of Israel were an inseparable part of the Palestinian people, and called on settlers to get out of Palestinian lands and "our souls."
"Whoever follows the speeches realizes that the problem is not in the address of [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], but rather Tibi's speech, which totally contradicts the declaration of independence, in which Israel was defined a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. Israel must decide if it is a defensive democracy or a suicidal one," the foreign minister continued.
On the issue of Ghajar, Lieberman said he had come on the tour to learn about the situation in the village, but stressed that there was no talk of a deal with Syria or Lebanon and said the village would remain under Israeli sovereignty.
"Our decision on the village will be based on security and humanitarian considerations," he said.
Lieberman was recently tasked by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with drawing up policy recommendations concerning the town, which is currently split between Israel and Lebanon.
Earlier on Wednesday, MK Ophir Akunis (Likud) demanded that Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin fire Tibi from his position as Deputy Speaker. Rivlin responded that while that he regretted hearing Tibi's statements, which could be interpreted as incitement, it was not his task to censure Knesset members.
The sixth Fatah conference opened on Tuesday and was attended by over 2,000 delegates from across the Arab world who will likely choose a new leadership and platform for the movement.
Arab MKs participated in the Fatah assembly, and infuriated Jewish MKs with their fiery rhetoric.
As one of the most popular speakers at the assembly's opening session, Tibi said the Palestinian state must be free of Jewish settlers and that Israeli Arabs were an inseparable part of the Palestinian people.
"We, Arab citizens of Israel, are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people, we are the original residents here, and we will never leave. We own the lands here and are not guests," said the veteran MK.
"Whoever came last should leave first," added Tibi, who stressed that merely freezing building in settlements was insufficient and that Israel must "disassemble them." He claimed that peace could not be achieved with settlements or settlers.
To a roar of applause from the delegates in attendance, Tibi called on settlers to "get out of Palestinian lands, get out of our souls, get out!"
"My suggestion for Tibi is that he get out of my soul," responded Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud). "I'm sick and tired of people who deliver speeches about being an integral part of the Palestinian people but choose to sit in the Israeli Knesset and enjoy all of the benefits of the Israeli democracy."
Improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan accused Tibi of worsening the situation in the Middle East.
Yaakov Katz, Herb Keinon and Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report