liberman professor 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman says he changed his mind in recent years and decided to support the creation of a Palestinian state, but that he did not try to hide his views during the recent election campaign.
Lieberman surprised many of his voters when he wrote in a letter to the New York Jewish Week on Thursday that he "advocates the creation of a viable Palestinian state." He also told The Washington Post that he would agree to the evacuation of his West Bank community of Nokdim "if there really will be a two-state solution."
Asked whether he had changed his mind on the Palestinian state issue, Lieberman said in the Knesset on Monday that "reality changes" and that his shift had occurred over the last few years. Lieberman accused the press of being "shallow" for not reporting dovish things he had said in the past that would challenge his image as a hawk.
"No one asked us during the campaign if we were in favor of a Palestinian state," Israel Beiteinu MK Danny Ayalon said. "The answer is yes, but for us, unlike Kadima, it's not an obsession. It's something that we would accept if all our conditions are met. We are not confusing people."
But the Matot Arim organization charged that Lieberman and Israel Beiteinu had deliberately defrauded voters during the campaign, despite the party's campaign slogan "Lieberman: I trust him."
Matot Arim said it had received a phone commitment from MK David Rotem during the campaign that the party opposed the creation of a Palestinian state.
In a poll sponsored by the organization before the election, 58% of Israel Beiteinu supporters said they would not vote for the party if they knew it supported a Palestinian state.
"If elections are in Israel to be meaningful and if the state wants people to bother to vote, then politicians should not be able to get away with changing their policy radically a few days after the elections without providing an adequate explanation," Matot Arim spokeswoman Susie Dym said in reaction to Lieberman's endorsement of a Palestinian state.
Rotem said he had made a point of not signing Matot Arim's petition of MKs against a Palestinian state and that when he spoke to Dym, he had been speaking for himself.
But Dym said an Israel Beiteinu spokeswoman had told her that Rotem had been speaking for the entire party. Dym also said the Israel Democracy Institute's election compass, which indicated that Israel Beiteinu opposed a Palestinian state, was further evidence that that the party had misguided potential voters.
But an IDI spokesman said Israel Beiteinu had not agreed to cooperate with his organization on the compass and that the IDI had inferred the party's views - incorrectly, it seems - based on statements from the party's leaders.
Lieberman made reference to a Palestinian state when he told The Jerusalem Post in January that he had told former prime minister Ariel Sharon, "If you've already decided to progress toward a two-state solution, why is one of them a state and a half - since all Israeli Arabs identify themselves as Palestinians - and the other half a state? If the aim is two states, at least let's have two states for two peoples."