Open Zion

11.09.12

The Truth About Yisrael Beytenu

During the lead up to the last Israeli General Elections in 2009, a very-well known newspaper in Israel associated with the Left, but distributed also in English, published two articles, within a few days of each other, claiming that current Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had been a member of the far-Right Kach Party and a confidant of Yasser Arafat. Neither of these preposterous assertions have a basis in fact and both relied on the hearsay of one source.

I use this example to demonstrate the desperate and wild attempts to discredit Lieberman—the latest being Peter Beinart’s article “Avigdor’s American Apologist” in these pages—throwing mud in every direction hoping that some will stick, that have been ongoing since his meteoric rise in Israeli politics beginning 13 years ago. Already in recent months, the same newspaper, and others in the local and international media, have called him a KGB spy and used all manner of ethnic slurs that would not be acceptable if used against any other community.

As a member of the Arabic-speaking minority in Israel and having known and worked alongside Avigdor Lieberman for many years, I can attest to the fact that the vast majority of what I read about him bears little relation to reality. One of the greatest charges against Lieberman is that he and our party are anti-Arab.

This casual accusation without merit is not borne out by the facts. Yisrael Beytenu stands firmly against Arab politicians who spend much of their term in office on lavish trips to meet with regional despots and repressive regimes, rather than representing the people who democratically elect them and pay their wages. Over the last couple of years, various Arab Members of Knesset travelled to meet with former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Describing the visit to Gadaffi’s Libya as “wonderful,” these Israeli Arab MK’s were feted by the autocrat who discussed with his guests ways to end the existence of the State of Israel in its current form.

Only a couple of weeks ago, Sa'id Nafa of the Balad party led a demonstration of support for Bashar Assad, claiming the Syrian leader was the “victim of aggression” while the rest of the world stands aghast at his systematic butchery.

This is not even to mention former Israeli prime ministerial candidate, Azmi Bishara, also of Balad, who fled Israel after police opened an investigation into accusations of allegedly aiding the enemy during wartime. The charge sheet included the passing of information on targets to Hizbullah in 2006 as the terrorist group rained down missiles on the north of Israel, targeting Jews and Arab alike.

Hanin Zoabi, another Arab Member of Knesset, who was on the Marvi Marmara while the brutal terrorist organization the IHH attacked Israeli soldiers, said after the recent terror attack in Bulgaria against Israeli tourists, killing five, that Israelis are not victims and are to blame for their own murder.

While Arab Members of Knesset are recklessly supporting and encouraging some of the most brutal regimes and terrorist organizations in the world, their local constituency is ignored.  

During the same time, Members of Knesset for Yisrael Beytenu have quietly set about assisting this community without making headlines. Our MK’s are behind the overhaul, repair and modernization of the sewage and water systems and the electricity grids in predominantly Arab areas in the north of the country.

Minister of Water and Energy Resources Uzi Landau and myself fought doggedly for a massive hundreds of millions of shekels extra budget allocation from the government to improve these systems.

Far from pushing “undemocratic” legislation, Yisrael Beytenu has attempted to push legislation that will equalize Israeli society. Only a couple of months ago, I was proud to be a co-signatory on a bill that called for an equalization of the national burden, whereby every Israeli, regardless of color, religion or background, would serve their society.

Currently there is an absurd and untenable situation where all Israelis receive the same benefits, but do not all undertake similar obligations. This law, which was supported by many in the Arabic-speaking community, would have led to their further incorporation into Israeli society and would have dealt with many of the integration problems affecting the community.

While in practice the passage of this law would have meant that Israeli Arabs could have served and assisted in local Arab hospitals, kindergartens or old age homes, one Arab MK called this type of service “a declaration of war.”

However, I am proud to say, these Arab MK’s are fighting a quixotic battle as more and more Arab Israelis are voluntarily entering national service and encountering Israelis from all backgrounds, thus breaking free of the propagandist bonds their so-called representatives have created for them.

Furthermore, Lieberman’s blueprint for a resolution to our conflict with the Palestinians does not “exile” or “transfer” as some have spuriously called it. The plan calls for a drawing (not redrawing, as no border was ever set at the insistence of the Jordanians in 1947) of the border with our neighbors to really create “two states for two peoples,” something President Obama has called for on many occasions.

As Foreign Minister Lieberman wrote in the Jerusalem Post in 2010:

The current demands from some in the international community are to create a homogeneous pure Palestinian state and a binational state in Israel. This becomes the one-and-a-half to half state solution. For lasting peace and security we need to create true political division between Arabs and Jews, with each enjoying self-determination.

Therefore, for a lasting and fair solution, there needs to be an exchange of populated territories to create two largely homogeneous states, one Jewish Israeli and the other Arab Palestinian. Of course, this is not to preclude that minorities will remain in either state where they will receive full civil rights.

Clearly, this means no one will be forced to leave their home and the solution will be found whereby geography meets demography to ensure long-term enduring peace between our peoples. Arab Israelis who fall outside of this border, which will be decided by consensus and maybe even by referendum, will still be entitled to work and travel freely wherever they choose; the only difference will be the parliament they vote to elect.

There are those who claim that it is illegal to remove citizenship from individuals. However, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/153, written in 2001, explicitly states: “When part of the territory of a state is transferred by that state to another state, the successor state shall attribute its nationality to the persons concerned who have their habitual residence in the transferred territory and the predecessor state shall withdraw its nationality from such persons.”

These are the facts to rebut just a few of the fallacies I read on a daily basis about our party. I am proud to serve in what I believe is the most diverse party on the Israeli political spectrum. In the last elections, we had Jews and non-Jews, religious and secular, immigrants and sabras, Ashkenazim and Sephardim on our list, including a third of our members who are women, the highest ratio of women in any party.

There is no excuse for these inaccuracies. The party has a spokesperson for the English-speaking and international media, and while the daily distortions continue, his phone is suspiciously silent. Surely responsible journalism requires attribution from the source of the accusation. Or maybe political sabotage is the point and facts and truth be damned.