Lieberman has Arabs worried

Erekat: Incoming government shaping up to become the "most extremist gov't in Israel's history."

lieberman leaving 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
lieberman leaving 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Arab world is reacting with alarm in the wake of a coalition agreement that brings Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman closer to becoming the next foreign minister and grants his party other key posts. "The leader of extremism is leading diplomacy in Israel," the Middle East Online news site proclaimed on Monday. "The Netanyahu-Lieberman agreement is a slap in the face of Arab moderation," read the headline of a Tuesday article on the Egyptian news site "Avigdor Lieberman: An anti-Arab racist," read another recent headline of the Lebanese newspaper Mustaqbal. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned Tuesday that the next Israeli government, expected to be led by Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, was shaping up to become the "most extremist government in Israel's history." Erekat is among a number of Arab officials who have branded Lieberman a racist. "Lieberman is a person who has called for the expulsion of non-Jews from Israel, and that, in my opinion, is racism," Erekat told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "As far as I'm concerned, people who call for the mistreatment or expulsion of other people under other pretexts are racists." Lieberman has advocated transferring heavily populated Arab areas within Israel to Palestinian sovereignty in the event of a peace deal, a move that could strip hundreds of thousands of Arabs of their Israeli citizenship. He campaigned under the slogan "No loyalty, no citizenship," proposing that all citizens, including Arabs, should pledge their loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state to maintain their citizenship. The Palestinian Authority would not consider any future Israeli government a partner for peace unless it accepted a two-state solution, accepted previous agreements and halted settlement building, Erekat said. "If someone is calling for more settlements and someone is calling for the expulsion of people and someone doesn't even want to talk about Jerusalem in the negotiations, then what can we expect from these people?" he asked. On Monday, following reports of a Netanyahu-Lieberman deal, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was quoted in the Arab press as saying that the "emergence of an extreme right-wing government in Israel" was a "negative factor that might cause damage" to the peace process. If such a government "implemented what they have spoken about in recent years, we will face great difficulties," he said. "We recommend exercising strong resolve" for the sake of "opposing anyone who wants to continue [building] settlements... and thwart the idea of a two-state solution by swallowing Palestinian land day after day," he was quoted as saying. "We must tell them, Stop! Otherwise, you will destroy the foundations of the [peace] settlement, and if it is shaken, the conflict will continue for centuries."