Lieberman proposes ethnic cleansing

Lieberman Proposes
Ethnic Cleansing

Israeli foreign minister wants
Palestinian Israelis stripped of
citizenship and expelled

Jonathan Cook
The National
June 25. 2010

Nazareth — Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s far-right foreign minister, set out
this week what he called a “blueprint for a resolution to the conflict” with the
Palestinians that demands most of the country’s large Palestinian minority
be stripped of citizenship and relocated outside Israel’s future borders.

Mr Lieberman said that Israel faced growing diplomatic pressure for a full
withdrawal to the Green Line, the pre-1967 border, and if such a partition
were implemented, “the conflict will inevitably pass beyond those borders
and into Israel”.

He accused many of Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of acting
against Israel while their leaders “actively assist those who want to destroy
the Jewish state”.

Mr Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party campaigned in last year’s elections on
a platform of “No loyalty, no citizenship” and has proposed a raft of loyalty
laws over the past year targeted at the Palestinian minority.

True peace, the foreign minister claimed, would come only with land swaps,
or “an exchange of populated territories to create two largely homogeneous
states, one Jewish Israeli and the other Arab Palestinian”. He added that
under his plan “those Arabs who were in Israel will now receive Palestinian
citizenship”.

Unusually, Mr Lieberman, who is also deputy prime minister, offered his plan
in a commentary for the English-language Jerusalem Post daily newspaper,
apparently in an attempt to make maximum impact on the international
community.

He has spoken repeatedly in the past about drawing the borders in a way to
forcibly exchange Palestinian communities in Israel for the Jewish settlements
in the West Bank.

But under orders from Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, he has kept
a relatively low profile on the conflict’s larger issues since his controversial
appointment to head the foreign ministry more than a year ago.

In early 2009, Mr Lieberman, who lives in the West Bank settlement of
Nokdim, upset his own supporters by advocating the creation of “a viable
Palestinian state”, though he has remained unclear about what it would
require in practice.

Mr Lieberman’s revival of his “population transfer” plan – an idea he
unveiled six years ago – comes as the Israeli leadership has understood that
it is “isolated like never before”, according to Michael Warschawski, an
Israeli analyst.

Mr Netanyahu’s government has all but stopped paying lip service to
US-sponsored “proximity talks” with the Palestinians after outraging global
public opinion with attacks on Gaza 18 months ago and on a Gaza-bound
aid flotilla four weeks ago in which nine peace activists were killed.

Israel’s relations with the international community are likely to deteriorate
further in late summer when a 10-month partial freeze on settlement
expansion in the West Bank expires. Yesterday, Mr Netanyahu refused to
answer questions about the freeze, after a vote by his Likud party’s central
committee
to support renewed settlement building from late September.

Other looming diplomatic headaches for Israel are the return of the
Goldstone Report, which suggested Israel committed war crimes in its attack
on Gaza, to the United Nations General Assembly in late July, and Turkey’s
adoption of the rotating presidency of the Security Council in September.

Mr Warschawski, a founder of the Alternative Information Centre, a joint
Israeli-Palestinian advocacy group, said that, faced with these crises, Israel’s
political elite had split into two camps.

Most, including Mr Lieberman, believed Israel should “push ahead” with its
unilateral policies towards the Palestinians and refuse to engage in a peace
process regardless of the likely international repercussions.

“Israel’s ruling elite knows that the only solution to the conflict acceptable
to the international community is an end to the occupation along the lines of
the Clinton parameters,” he said, referring to the two-state solution promoted
by former US president Bill Clinton in late 2000.

“None of them, not even Ehud Barak [the defence minister and head of the
centrist Labour Party], are ready to accept this as the basis for negotiations.”

On the other hand, Tzipi Livni, the head of the centre-right opposition
Kadima party, Mr Warschawski said, wanted to damp down the international
backlash by engaging in direct negotiations with the Palestinian leadership
in the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Lieberman’s commentary came a day after he told Ms Livni that she could
join the government only if she accepted “the principle of trading territory
and population as the solution to the Palestinian issue, and give up the
principle of land for peace”.

Mr Lieberman is reportedly concerned that Mr Netanyahu might seek to
bring Ms Livni into a national unity government to placate the US and prop
up the legitimacy of his coalition.

The Labour Party has threatened to quit the government if Kadima does not
join by the end of September, and Ms Livni is reported to want the foreign
ministry.

Mr Lieberman’s position is further threatened by a series of corruption
investigations.

However, he also appears keen to take the initiative from both Washington
and Ms Livni with his own “peace plan”. An unnamed aide to Mr Lieberman
told the Jerusalem Post that, with a vacuum in the diplomatic process, the
foreign minister “thinks he can convince the government to adopt the plan”.

However, Mr Warschawski said there were few indications that Mr
Netanyahu wanted to be involved in any peace process, even Mr Lieberman’s.

This week Uzi Arad, the government’s shadowy national security adviser
and a long-time confidant of Mr Netanyahu, made a rare public statement at
a meeting of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem to attack Ms Livni for “political
adventurism” and believing in the “magic” of a two-state solution.

Apparently reflecting Mr Netanyahu’s own thinking, he said: “The more you
market Palestinian legitimacy, the more you bring about a detraction of
Israel’s legitimacy in certain circles. [The Palestinians] are accumulating
legitimacy, and we are being delegitimised.”

Mr Warschawski doubted that Mr Lieberman believed his blueprint for
population exchanges could be implemented but was promoting it chiefly to
further damage the standing of Israel’s Palestinian citizens and advance his
own political ambitions.

In his commentary, Mr Lieberman said the international community’s peace
plan would lead to “the one-and-a-half to half state solution”: “a
homogeneous, pure Palestinian state”, from which Jewish settlers were
expelled, and “a binational state in Israel”, which included many Palestinian
citizens.

Palestinians, in both the territories and inside Israel, he said, could not
“continue to incite against Israel, glorify murder, stigmatise Israel in
international forums, boycott Israeli goods and mount legal offensives
against Israeli officials”.

Jonathan Cook is a British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His reports
on Israel-Palestine have been published in numerous journals and websites
including the Guardian, the Observer, the Times, Al Jazeera, New Statesman,
International Herald Tribune, Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo), The National
(Abu Dhabi), Electronic Intifada and Counterpunch. His latest book is
Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books,
2009). His two earlier books are Blood and Religion and Israel and the Clash of
Civilisations
(Pluto Books, 2006, 2008). Visit his website:
http://www.jkcook.net/index.html

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Posted in Militarism and Foreign Policy