Israel Beiteinu opens campaign with promise to penalize those who evade national service

Lieberman: Nation's leaders have lost ability to speak clearly.

Lieberman makes point 224 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
Lieberman makes point 224 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
Israel Beiteinu launched its election campaign Sunday in Katzrin, on the Golan Heights, with a call for new national leadership and for legislation to penalize Israelis, including Arabs, who don't serve in either the IDF or a civilian national service program. Lieberman promised that Israel Beiteinu's first bill in the 18th Knesset would create a graduated tuition structure for public universities. Today, the state pays about two-thirds of the cost of every student's college education, and the students' pay the remaining third in the form of tuition. The Israel Beiteinu plan would offer combat soldiers a free college education, those who served in a noncombat capacity or in national service 50 percent funding, and nothing for those who failed to serve in any way, effectively tripling tuition for those who don't serve. "This is how a state signals its desired order of priorities, the values it wishes to promote," he said. Lieberman blasted Arab-Israeli leaders who expressed anti-Israel sentiments, saying they damaged prospects for coexistence. "Anyone who wants to surrender their Israeli citizenship, go right ahead," he said. "The state must bring the extremists [among Israeli Arabs] to justice and support those who desire coexistence. Right now, the situation is reversed: those who incite against us feel safe and those who want to integrate [into society] feel threatened," he said. While the state "must respect all citizens regardless of religion, race or gender, it can't surrender its national pride," Lieberman added. The party chairman used his speech to call for a new kind of leadership, one not tainted by "the phenomenon of zigzagging that is reaching a climax." "What has caused our leaders to lose the ability to think simply and speak clearly?" Lieberman asked. "What caused them to lose the courage and determination to do what's right, the ability to distinguish between victory and defeat, terror and peace, nightmares and dreams?" Israel Beiteinu, he insisted, was "different. With us, everything is clear and stable. Even if we're speaking in simple Hebrew with a Russian accent, we speak clearly." Everyone understands us, unlike the other parties. Even if you don't agree, you know where we stand." Taking a jab at what many consider his main competition for votes, the Likud, Lieberman asked if "someone can explain to me the common denominator between Dan Meridor and Moshe Feiglin." At the event, held on the Golan Heights to highlight the party's commitment to keeping the strategic territory despite "what some position papers tell us about [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's peaceful intentions," Israel Beiteinu's leadership promised it would announce "new faces" who would join its Knesset candidates list in the coming days. Sunday already saw Orly Levy, television anchor, former model and daughter of former foreign minister David Levy, join the party's list.