Friday, November 10, 2006

NY Observer Observes Avigdor Lieberman

Israel’s Demographic Surgeon: The Lieberman Solution is Joshua Mitnick's story in the NY Observer.

Some excerpts:-

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s newest coalition partner—a West Bank settler—is arguably the most provocative Israeli politician since Rabbi Meir Kahane, and a headline in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph only burnished Mr. Lieberman’s fearsome credentials: “Jews and Arabs Can Never Live Together, Says Israel’s Vice PM.” Mr. Olmert swiftly distanced himself from Mr. Lieberman, saying that the opinions expressed in the article didn’t reflect the Israeli government’s position.

In an interview the next day in his Knesset chambers, the barrel-chested politician, a Moldovan immigrant whose party is called Israel Beiteinu (Israel Is Our Home), calmly laid out his diagnosis of the “demographic threat” of Israel’s growing Arab minority and its problematic loyalties to a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

“There will be a homogenic Palestinian country without any Jews, and we will become a bi-national country with more than 20 percent non-Jewish population,” he said in his heavily Russian-accented English.

Mr. Lieberman’s mind-set is grounded in the notion that many of the worst problems of the last century have stemmed from unstable ethnic minorities. In his view, the situation is particularly acute in Israel, which lies at ground zero in what he termed the “clash of civilizations” between East and West.

“The linkage there will be between the Palestinians within Israel and the Palestinian country will bring some explosion,” Mr. Lieberman said. “And we can’t continue living in this situation. The best solution is exchanging from one side, exchanging population and territory.”

That means strengthening Israel’s Jewish majority by swapping sovereignty over Israeli Arab towns near the West Bank to the Palestinians in return for areas occupied by Jewish settlers in the West Bank. It also requires a redivision of Jerusalem to cede about 125,000 Palestinian residents to a Palestinian state.

As a corollary to the population swap, Mr. Lieberman has proposed that Israeli citizens be required to swear allegiance to the country’s flag and national anthem—two symbols with no intrinsic value for Israeli Arabs—or lose their voting rights. Necessary measures, he says.

While whisking me through the corridors of the Knesset, Mr. Lieberman’s aide pitched me on the new minister’s political non-conformism: “He’s both far-right and far-left.”

It’s a fair characterization, to a point: Territorial compromise and separation—in recognition of the ramifications of Jewish-Arab demographic trends—were first raised by peaceniks. And at the Camp David peace talks of 2000—which now seem like a tragically short-lived high point in Israeli-Palestinian relations—negotiators were discussing the idea of a comprehensive land swap.

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