Avigdor Lieberman is head of the rightwing Israel Beytenu Party, who calls, among other things, for an "oath of loyalty" law and for the transfer of Palestinian citizens of Israel to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority . Head of rightwing Israel Beytenu party, Avigdor Lieberman—born Ivet Lvovich Lieberman—is a 50 years old immigrant from Moldova who managed to win 15 Knesset seats in last week elections. Just before the vote the Attorney General declared that “serious suspicions” against him were being investigated: bribery, money laundering and falsifying corporate documents during his service as Cabinet Minister from 2001 to 2004. Seven of his associates were detained for questioning, and three of them were taken into custody by the Israel Police. He stated that investigations against him just before the elections were becoming “routine” and replied to the allegations, declaring that “for part of the Israeli establishment I am still Ivet the terrible.”
Lieberman’s past declarations and actions explain this statement very clearly.
He resides in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, built in 1982 near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, with his wife and three children. The town is one of Israel’s smaller settlements—home to about 700 Israelis—beyond which there are smaller caravan outposts of even more hard-line settlers. In 1999, one of his sons was apparently beaten by a neighbor’s son, who consequently was beaten (some say also bitten) by the Israel Beytenu leader. His thuggish behavior includes a strong anti-Arab rhetoric that led him to declare “At eight o’clock, we bomb all commercial centers, at 12 o’clock we bomb all fuel stations, and at two o’clock in the afternoon, we bomb all the banks, and we keep the border crossings open,” referring to occupied Palestinian territories.
In 1993 he became Likud’s Director General, and from 1996 and 1997 he was appointed Director-General of the Prime Minister’s office during Benjamin Netanyahu mandate.
In 1999 he left Likud to found Israel Beytenu or Israel Is Our Home, a far right, ultranationalist and populist party that is now the third largest political party in Israel, in a bid to obtain 1 million Russian immigrant votes, by the fact that they support a harder line in negotiations with the Palestinians. According to the Leiberman website, his party “fulfills the three cardinal principles of Zionism: Aliyah (immigration), settlement, and defense of our homeland.”
In 2001, Lieberman was appointed National Infrastructure Minister in Ariel Sharon’s government but resigned the post at the beginning of 2002 after declaring that Sharon was not acting forcefully enough against the Palestinians. In March 2002, Lieberman proposed an ultimatum to the Palestinians to halt all terror activities: “if it were up to me, I would notify the Palestinian Authority that tomorrow at ten in the morning we would bomb all their places of business in Ramallah, for example." This led Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to respond that excessive military measures could lead to accusations of war crimes.
Again, in 2003 he obtained the Transportation Ministry in Sharon’s Government. During the service Lieberman initiated water-treatment projects and he legislated the “Natural Gas Law” to create a more competitive energy industry. In July 2003, reacting to a commitment made by Ariel Sharon to the US, where amnesty could be given to approximately 350 Palestinian prisoners including members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Lieberman said "It would be better to drown these prisoners in the Dead Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world," and continued, stating his willingness, as Minister of Transportation, to supply buses to take the prisoners there. He was fired by Sharon in June 2004 because he did not support the Disengagement Plan from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank (Kadim, Ganim, Homesh and Sa-Nur).
He ran for elections in 2006 on a three issue campaign: the future of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli economy, and the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Lieberman, frequently compared to Austria’s Jörg Haider and France’s Jean-Marie le Pen, said: “The linkage between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Arab population—it will destroy us, it is impossible. What is the logic of creating one and a half countries for one people and a half country for the Jewish people?". “The answer,” he stated “is exchanges of land and populations and making a homogeneous, Jewish country as much as possible,” adding that “The source of the conflict here is not territory, it is not occupation, it is not settlers. It is a clash between two peoples and two religions. Anywhere in the world where there are two peoples and two religions, whether it’s the former Yugoslavia or the Caucasus region in Russia or in Northern Ireland, there is conflict.” He proposed to redraw Israel’s borders by transferring many Israeli Arab towns to Palestinian jurisdiction and annexing large Jewish settlements in the West Bank to Israel. Our target is to create a Jewish state and provide security.”
In 2006, Olmert appointed him Minister of Strategic Affairs, a brand new ministry created to face the Iranian threat. The Sphinx of Minsk (as journalist Yossi Verter defined him) has a controversial idea about the atomic bombs, suggesting to bomb Gaza, Teheran, Beirut and also the Aswan Dam in order to flood Cairo. A Haaretz analyst in 2006 stated that “The choice of the most unrestrained and irresponsible man around for this job constitutes a strategic threat in its own right.” During a special Knesset plenary session, referring to the fact that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak never visits Israel, he stated : “Every self respecting leader would have conditioned such meetings on reciprocation. If he wants to talks to us, he should come here, and if he doesn’t want to come, he can go to hell.” Once again, President Shimon Peres issued an official apology to the Egyptian President.
In 2008, Lieberman resigned from Olmert’s Government in protest to the peace talks undertaken with the Palestinian Authority, declaring: “I have said this dozens of times: Our job in the government is to stop the Annapolis process.” As soon as investigations concerning the Jericho Casino affair were dismissed, he became active again: he was accused of taking a 650,000$ bribe through a South Africa based company which he controlled in 2001.
The star of the 2009 elections draws a program which puts first “Bringing the Zionist Dream to Life,” but also calls for expanding infrastructures, boosting the economy, and stopping crime and “locking it behind bars.” The main points of his campaign, however, referred to the Arabic population within Israel and outside the country.
Concerning the first point, he proposed the mottos “no citizenship without loyalty” and “only Lieberman understands Arabic,” stating that “in order to enjoy the full rights of an Israeli citizen, one must also take on responsibilities. We will work to enact a citizenship law, which will require all Israeli citizens to pledge allegiance to the State and perform military or alternative national service,” therefore “turning citizenship from a universal right into a benefit for certain sectors of the public” as Haaretz stated. He added later that this was not a racist campaign because “We do more to promote loyalty, we have to have the courage to be unapologetically patriotic. What is at stake is our ability to defend our country from a threat from within and to confer on our children an unambiguous sense of pride as Jews living in a land that is rightfully theirs.” He suggested, as in 2006, to take “responsibility for areas populated by an Arab majority, such as Umm al-Fahm in the Triangle, [which] will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. In parallel, areas in Judea and Samaria and strongholds of Jewish settlement will be officially annexed to Israel.”
There is more than enough here to deduce that the negotiations process will be at risk with such a man in the government coalition.