Avigdor Liberman

By Ephron, Dan | Newsweek, January 3, 2011 | Go to article overview

Avigdor Liberman


Ephron, Dan, Newsweek


Byline: Dan Ephron

Israel's most popular politician right now is a burly cigar smoker who wants to redraw its borders to exclude most Arabs. What is the far-right foreign minister thinking?

You're not a big believer in "territory for peace." We began the Oslo process 17 years ago, in 1993, and we're still in a deadlock. The right approach is not peace for territory but exchanging territory and populations.

Does [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu support that idea? I don't know, but I can guess that all the right wing, including all of Likud, and maybe the majority of the Labor Party [support it].

You're talking about drawing a line so that how many Israeli Arabs will no longer be part of Israel? At least half.

Polls suggest that 90 percent or more of Israeli Arabs don't want that. You have 20 percent of the population that's the Arab minority. You have 80 percent that's Jewish. From 80 percent of the Jewish population, 70 percent support this idea.

So even if a resident of [the Israeli Arab town] Umm al-Fahm, for instance, doesn't want to become part of Palestine, if a majority in the country says he has to, he has no choice? He can continue to live in his property, his house, his land [and become a citizen of Palestine], or he can move to Israel.

But most Israeli Arabs, the vast majority, have been loyal citizens of Israel. Every day, every week, you have another case of Israeli Arabs that are taking part in terrorist activity. You have the leaders of the Israeli Arabs, their intellectual and municipal leaders, saying they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state.

What about the argument that all this talk about taking away their Israeli citizenship or forcing them to sign loyalty oaths--that those are the things that alienate Israeli Arabs and turn them against Israel? What we're trying to do is stop this phenomenon of people enjoying all the advantages of a democratic country but refusing to be integrated. They don't want to adopt our values. It's like in the 1930s. Everyone understood who Hitler was, but everybody tried to avoid this reality.

Who are you comparing to Hitler? [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, the Iranian threat--it's exactly like Hitler.

But the world is not appeasing Iran. There are sanctions against Iran. There's talk about a military option. There's a recognition universally that Iran is a problem. Exactly like in the '30s. Everyone knew that Hitler was a problem, and the Western world sacrificed Czechoslovakia. Not enough sanctions [have been imposed] to prevent them from acquiring nuclear capability.

Are you saying you believe Iran is going to get a nuclear bomb, that we just have to learn to live with that idea? …

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