Lieberman: There's 'unholy alliance' among my critics
"We are not against the Left or against the Arabs... we're for the State of Israel," says Israel Beiteinu leader.
By ABE SELIG
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman used his appearance at the IDC Herzliya conference on Monday to fire back at critics and justify his party's platform, which has come under increasing scrutiny in recent days as Israel Beiteinu continues to make significant gains in the polls leading up to next week's general elections.
"There is an unholy alliance among those who attack me," Lieberman told the packed auditorium on Monday night.
"There was a quote in Ha'aretz a few days ago, in which Ehud Barak asked about me, 'When has he ever shot anyone? When has he ever held a rifle?' Is that a criterion?" Lieberman asked as the audience laughed.
"This is the leader of the Left?"
But in addition to responding to the Jewish opposition to his party, Lieberman also used his speech to clarify his positions against the actions of the country's Israeli-Arab political parties, singling out the National Democratic Assembly, or Balad party, in particular.
"We are not against the Left or against the Arabs," Lieberman said.
"We're for the State of Israel. And Balad founder Azmi Bishara should be tried for espionage, as he uses every opportunity he gets to speak out against Israel.
"His successor, Jamal Zahalka, used his Israeli passport to fly to Jordan and make a speech at the grave of George Habash."
"These are politicians that receive pensions from the State of Israel," he said, and added, "These are ministers that refuse to sing the national anthem."
"When Jews were ministers in Arab states, did anyone doubt their loyalty to their state? But instead of doing anything about it, we allow their youth to refuse army service or national service. They wave Hamas flags, and then expect to receive an education in our universities. I think it should be the opposite," he continued.
"I think the combat soldier who served three years in the army should receive the education, not the other way around."
"The real minority in this country is the combat soldier who pays taxes," Lieberman went on. "And the State of Israel has to stop squirming and protect herself just as the Western countries do. Why should we be any different?"
But Lieberman wasn't the only one to come out swinging on Monday.
On Monday morning, legendary Channel 1 News anchor Haim Yavin blasted Lieberman, comparing him to the leader of a banned extremist party and accusing him of physically threatening Arab MKs.
"Lieberman is, in one way or another, continuing the path of [Meir Kahane with] these comments like 'Lieberman understands Arabic,'" Yavin, who is slated to cover the elections for Channel Two, told Army Radio.
Kahane was the head of the far-right Kach party, which was banned by the Knesset in 1988 after being accused of having a racist platform.
He was assassinated in New York in November 1990. In 1994, the party was officially defined as a terrorist organization in Israel.
"He is physically threatening Knesset members like [UAL MK Taleb A-Sanaa]," Yavin continued.
"One must wonder how something like this could happen without anybody paying attention to it?"
"What is that, loyalty to the state?" the former news anchor asked, referring to the Israel Beiteinu campaign slogan, "No citizenship without loyalty."
"How many times a day do we have to wave the flag in order to be declared loyal to the state?"
Israel Beiteinu is currently running a close fourth in the polls, and is expected to garner at least 13 seats in the election.
Echoing Yavin's statements, Prof. Rassem Khamaisi of the University of Haifa's Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, also questioned the definition of loyalty as set forth by Israel Beiteinu.
"What does being loyal mean?" Khamaisi asked The Jerusalem Post after taking part in a forum about mixed cities in Israel at the IDC Herzliya Conference on Monday, a few hours before Lieberman was scheduled to speak.
"Does being loyal mean being under investigation by the police or having your daughter under investigation by the police?" Khamaisi asked.
"Is loyalty requested of all Jewish residents of Israel as well, or just the Arab ones? What about the ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to recognize the state or serve in the army? Is their loyalty being questioned?"
Khamaisi went on to explain that the rise of Israel Beiteinu, while troubling to Israeli-Arabs, was in his opinion a problem for Israel's Jewish citizens as well.
"The rise of Israel Beiteinu is bad for Israel," Khamaisi said. "They are stirring hatred and unrest among Israel's residents and giving legitimacy to the extremist minority. So who should be worried [about their projected election success]?
"If this is what the Jewish residents of the country want, then so be it. But I'll tell you now, it's not in the best interest of Israel, so should I be the only one who's worried?"
Meanwhile on Monday, Marina Solodkin (Kadima) clarified that she did not consider Lieberman to be a fascist and had never stated that he was.
"In my opinion, Israel Beiteinu often uses slogans that too closely resemble populist and superficial statements," Solodkin wrote in a letter to the Post.
"But I have worked alongside Avigdor Lieberman on many occasions as per my work in the parliament, and in no way consider him or his party to be fascist."
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