Yisrael Beiteinu’s strong third-place showing in Israel’s February 2009 elections for the Knesset was met with dread and disgust from many different quarters. Avigdor Lieberman, the founder and leader of the far-right party and the current Foreign Minister, ran a campaign filled with fascist overtones as he called for “loyalty oaths” to be signed by Palestinian citizens of Israel.
But perhaps we should take a look at Lieberman again in light of his much-condemned United Nations General Assembly speech yesterday and instead feel glad that the true face of Israel is shining to the world because of his position of power.
At the UN, Lieberman called for a “long-term intermediate agreement” instead of a solution dealing with all the final-status issues, dismissed the notion that the occupation and colonization of Palestine is at the core of the conflict and proposed a deal with the Palestinians that would be “about moving borders to better reflect demographic realities.” Although Lieberman claimed that he was not talking about “moving populations,” it’s apparent that Lieberman’s plan would result in the expulsion of Palestinian citizens of Israel to a Palestinian state, all in the service of making Israel an “ethnically pure” Jewish state.
Reactions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Jewish leaders were swift, and the media narrative laid out is that Lieberman’s speech revealed “differences” within Israeli politics about the “peace process.” The New York Times reports today that “sharp differences within the Israeli government over peace negotiations played out in the unusual setting of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.”
Netanyahu’s office distanced the prime minister from the speech and said that Lieberman’s speech was “not coordinated” with Netanyahu and that Netanyahu wants “direct talks” with the Palestinian Authority to go forward.
The reaction from Netanyahu was about promoting the image of Israel as willing to sit down and negotiate for peace with the Palestinians, which Lieberman’s speech did damage to. But that’s all it was about–Netanyahu and the State of Israel’s policies are completely in line with Lieberman’s plan of ethnically cleansing the non-Jewish citizens of Israel and of continuing to colonize the West Bank.
Under Netanyahu, the Bedouin village of Al Araqib has been destroyed multiple times to make way for a Jewish National Fund “ambassador forest.” Netanyahu has presided over the continued colonization of the West Bank, despite talk of a “settlement freeze,” and that’s likely to accelerate in the coming weeks. An recent Israeli Supreme Court ruling has Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah worried about further dispossession at the hands of Jewish settlers, and Silwan in East Jerusalem is still under the threat of home demolitions to make way for Israeli settlements and a theme park.
The list can go on and on. Actions speak much louder than words, and the State of Israel under Netanyahu has continued routine Israeli policies of land theft, colonization and slow ethnic cleansing. That’s not much different than the Israel Lieberman showed at the UN yesterday in words. Maybe that’s a good thing; the true, ugly face of Israeli policy, which the Palestinians know all-too-well, was shown to the world, further confirming that the “peace talks” are useless, and that Netanyahu is playing a public relations game for the international community while the status quo is sustained.