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Lieberman Is Not an Israeli 'Internal Affair'

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The absence of a proportionate Palestinian reaction to the ascendancy of Israel's far right leader, Avigdor Lieberman, into the mainstream strategic decision-making in Tel Aviv has indicated how dangerously the inter-Palestinian divide is overshadowing the Israeli threats and encouraged the visiting European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, to legitimize with a public meeting the only man who could abort not only the mission of his visit but all prospects of regional peace.

In a move that threatens to destabilize the already explosive regional situation, heralds an Israeli escalation towards a war with Iran in tandem with the U.S.-led anti-Iran campaign and pre-empts any credible prospects for initiating a new peace process if not reviving the old "Road Map"-based process, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signed a deal last week to bring Lieberman and his party Israel Beitenu (Israel Our Home) into his ruling coalition, in a bid for political survival following the fiasco in Lebanon, thus consolidating his power but confusing whatever Israel has of a peace vision.

According to Israeli media on the eve and in the wake of the ominous deal, that has yet to be endorsed by the Knesset, Israeli politicians and commentators described Lieberman as a "strategic threat," "the most dangerous politician in our political history," "the most unrestrained and irresponsible man around," a hawk, a hardliner, Israel's far right leader, extreme and ultra right-winger, a "fascist" and a leader of a "fascist party," a "detestable racist," "unguided missile" and a "loose cannon," etc.

"Lieberman's lack of restraint (is) ... liable to bring disaster down upon the entire region," Israeli Haaretz editorial warned on Oct. 24.

Hebrew University political science professor Zeev Sternhell, said Lieberman may be "the most dangerous politician in our political history" because of his "cocktail of nationalism, authoritarianism and dictatorial mentality" and because, unlike previous extreme-right figures he was not "marginalized." Professor Sternhell added: "I cannot forget that Mussolini came to power with only 30 members of parliament."

Lieberman, who was born in Moldova, USSR, in 1958 and immigrated to Israel in 1978, is on record as opposing the Road Map for a two-state solution, which was envisioned by the US President George W. Bush, drafted by the Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia and later adopted by the UN Security Council Resolution 1515; the process however was pronounced dead by Israel, the Arab League and scrapped on Tuesday by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos as a "too late" effort.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Lieberman questioned the wisdom of past peace deals where Israel ceded occupied land to Arab adversaries.

He is on record also to call for the ethnic cleansing of 1.2 million Israeli Arabs by stripping them of their citizenship and transferring them to a cantonized Palestinian Authority (PA) without consulting their or the PA's consent. A bill adopted by 12-11 votes by the Israeli cabinet last week to scrap its parliamentary system in favor of an American-style presidential rule could be his first step within this context; it raises the minimum that a party must achieve to enter parliament to 10% from 2%, which would eliminate Arab parties, whose combined strength has never quite reached 10%.

In 2004 he published his book "My Truth," a call to draw Israel's borders to exclude Arab citizens and include illegal Israeli colonial settlements Israel built on occupied Palestinian West Bank territory; he himself lives with his family in the colony of Nokdim. Earlier he spoke of "transfer" of Arab citizens, Gershom Gorenberg wrote in the Jewish daily Forward on October 20, 2006. "The problem with the Arabs inside Israel must come before the Palestinian problem," he said.

On May 4 he called also for executing elected Israeli Arab members of Knesset for talking to elected members of the Hamas-led Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Four days later American The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed grave concern over his inciteful statements.

When he served as minister of transport in a previous government, Lieberman called for all Palestinian prisoners, now more than ten thousand, held by the Israeli occupation authorities to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide the buses, Ha'aretz reported on July 11, 2002.

In 2002, Lieberman declared, "I would not hesitate to send the Israeli army into all of Area A [the area of the West Bank ostensibly under Palestinian Authority control] for 48 hours. Destroy the foundation of all the authority's military infrastructure ... not leave one stone on another. Destroy everything." He also suggested to the Israeli cabinet that the air force systematically bomb all the commercial centers, gas stations and banks in the occupied territories (The Independent, March 7, 2002).

In 1998 he called for the bombing of Egypt's Aswan Dam in retaliation for Cairo's support for the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The Israeli Gush Shalom organization warned in a published letter on Oct 15, not to let Lieberman and his party into the government coalition, saying the move would "shame everyone who advocates it."

However, instead of mobilizing its media and diplomatic corps to alert the world on the looming threat, the PLO kept absorbed by the internal divide and obsessed with plans on how to bring the elected Hamas to accept the U.S.-adopted Israeli dictates or squeeze it out of power, except for a rare statement that offhandedly shrugged Lieberman's ascendancy as an Israeli "internal affair"!

"At the end of the day, what we hoped for is to have a partner in Israel who is willing to revive a meaningful peace process that will end this miserable situation between our two peoples," said Saeb Erekat, who heads the PLO's negotiations department, whose mission has been confined recently to educating Hamas and the Palestinian people on how to better understand the "realpolitics" of the US and EU-backed Israeli dictates.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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