Why, for heaven's sake? Lieberman aspires to become prime minister some day, as soon as possible. For this he has to (1) unite his "Israel Our Home" party with the Likud, (2) become leader of the Likud, (3) win the general elections. But over all these there hovers (4): obtain the approval of the Americans. So Lieberman now supports the American effort and peace.
Yes, but under one condition: that the US accept his master plan for the Jewish State.
This is a masterpiece of constructive statesmanship. Its main proposal is to move the borders of Israel -- not eastward, as could be expected from an arch-nationalist, but westward, slimming Israel's narrow hips even further, to a mere 9 (nine!) km.
The Israeli territory that Lieberman wants to get rid of is the site of a dozen Arab villages, which were given to Israel as a gift by the then king of Jordan in the armistice agreement of 1949. Abdallah I, the great-great-grandfather of the current Abdallah II of Jordan, needed the armistice at any price. Lieberman now wants to give these villages back, thank you.
Why? Because for this stalwart of Jewish Israel, the reduction of the Arab population is a sacred task. He does not advocate expulsion, God forbid. Not at all. He proposes attaching this area, with its population, to the Palestinian state. In return, he wants the Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank to be joined to Israel. A transfer of areas with their populations, reminiscent of Stalin's redrawing the borders of Poland, except that Lieberman's borders look completely crazy.
Lieberman presents this as a peaceful, liberal, humane plan. No one will be displaced, no property expropriated. Some 300,000 Arabs, all of them ardent supporters of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, will become Palestinian citizens.
SO WHY do the Palestinians in Israel cry out? Why do they condemn the plan as a racist assault on their rights?
Because they are far more Israeli than they care to admit, even to themselves. After living in Israel for 65 years, they have become accustomed to its ways. They don't love Israel, they don't serve in its army, they are discriminated against in many ways, but they are deeply rooted in the Israeli economy and democracy, much more than is generally recognized.
"Israeli Arabs," a term they hate, plays a significant role in Israeli hospitals and courts, including the Supreme Court, and in many other institutions.
Becoming citizens of Palestine tomorrow would mean losing 80% or 90% of their standard of living. It would also mean losing the social security net enjoyed in Israel (though Lieberman promises to continue payments to those currently eligible.) After being used for decades to fair elections and the lively give-and-take of the Knesset, they would have to get used to a society in which, as of now, important parties are forbidden, elections are postponed and parliament plays a minor role. The place of women in this society is very different from their role in Israel.
The situation of the Palestinians in Israel is unique in many respects. On the one side, as long as Israel is defined as a Jewish State, the Arabs will not be fully equal. On the other side, in the occupied Palestinian territories, these Israeli citizens are not accepted as fully belonging. They straddle both sides of the conflict. They would like to be mediators, the link between the two sides, bringing them closer to each other. But this has remained a dream.
A complicated situation, indeed.
IN THE meantime, Netanyahu and Lieberman are hatching another plan to make Jewish Israel even Jewisher.
There are today three factions in the Knesset which derive their votes from the Arab population. They constitute almost 10% of the Knesset. Why not 20%, to reflect their part in the general population? First because they have many more children, who have not yet reached voting age (18 years). Second, their rate of abstention is significantly higher. Third, some Arabs are bribed to vote for Zionist parties.
The part of the Arab MKs in enacting laws is negligible. Any bill they introduce is almost automatically voted down. No Jewish party ever considered including them in a government coalition. Yet they have a very noticeable presence, their voice is heard.
Now, in the name of "governability" (a trendy new term that can be used to justify any attack on human rights), Bibi & Libie, as someone called them, want to change the minimum share of votes that any election list needs to enter the Knesset.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).