An open letter to Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman.
By MAX SOCOLPublished: FEBRUARY 11, 2009 20:54Advertisement
Dear Mr. Lieberman,
Along with many of us, you are perhaps surprised to see that Kadima has held on to a bare plurality in the Knesset - one that, in the coming days, may disappear as soldiers' votes are tallied. Likud lags behind by only a single seat, and likely stands to gain from the military vote - but the two parties will still remain neck-and-neck.
Neither can build a functioning coalition without you. Your party, now the third largest in the Knesset, will have to lend its support to one side or the other. It's time to make a decision.
Observers here and abroad have charged you with racism, xenophobia and the promotion of anti-democratic principles. In your position as potential second fiddle to a new coalition, those accusations may not matter to you - it will be the coalition's leading party that must endure the glare of the international spotlight. But, if you so choose, you have the opportunity to transform your image abroad, and to lay the groundwork for a successful bid for the prime minister's office in the next cycle - all with only one critical decision. Build a coalition with Kadima.
YOUR PROMISE to administer a "loyalty oath" (which you and your supporters have yet to define) has angered center-left observers, who perceive the initiative as a dangerous affront to democracy, a way of bullying the country's Arab population into silence. Perhaps they are right.
But they are also far too quick to overlook your position regarding the two-state solution. Your commitment to land swaps with the Palestinian Authority, which will preserve a number of Arab villages that might otherwise have been economically and socially isolated by the security fence or settlement growth, is admirable and practical.
You believe in building a Palestinian state to preserve a demographically Jewish Israel. That may not be the primary concern of the international community, but two states for two peoples will satisfy their concerns as effectively as yours.
If you are serious about building such a state, as you say you are, you have the opportunity to make history as the leader who finally brought a conclusion to decades of bloody fighting over the Palestinian issue. With a willing partner in the Obama administration, and Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah, you have the tools to begin the process of building a final-status agreement that will establish a home for Palestinians in the West Bank.
BUT YOU must build a coalition with Kadima. Binyamin Netanyahu was not serious about negotiations with Palestinians in his last tenure as prime minister, and is not serious about them now. His position as leader of the traditional right wing means that he will be required to waste time pandering to pro-settlement parties that will demand the impossible from their government. Netanyahu is far more likely to drag his feet indefinitely, in the vain hope of pleasing all the people all the time, than to take any concrete steps on the road toward building a Palestinian state.
Kadima will have no such burden. Tzipi Livni, following Ehud Olmert, has much more ideological flexibility in pursuing a two-state solution. Her base, not made up of settlers, will not desert her because of perceived weakness on the issue. Livni, entering power at the same time as a more flexible, more involved US administration, has the best chance to make real progress on the issue.
And you can be a part of that historic moment, one that will likely take more than one Knesset term, and one that therefore you yourself will have a chance to see to its conclusion.
But you must walk away from Netanyahu.
With all due respect, aspects of your platform based on a "loyalty oath" are most charitably described as unserious. True, you have captivated a substantial portion of the public with your jingoistic rhetoric. But now that the election has passed, it is time to recognize that the rhetoric is simply rhetoric. A loyalty oath is not a solution to discontent. As policy, it has no chance of healing what ails the country today.
Take charge of the part of your platform that is serious - the building of a Palestinian state - and you will fast find yourself the most powerful man in Israel. You have arrived on the national and international stage. Now is the time to leave demagoguery behind, and to start building a model of governance that can be taken seriously. Secure your own future as a leader of the country rather than an ideologue.
Join a coalition with Kadima.
The writer is an intern at The Jerusalem Post, and formerly researched peace education at the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information.
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