Liberman: Future peace deal with Palestinians must include Arab Israelis

Former defense minister calls Jewish state's 'conflict' with minority more difficult to resolve than reconciliation with Palestinians, Arab world

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman speaking at a parlor event in Ramat Gan, July 9, 2019. (Shachar Azran)

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman on Monday said Israel could come to no peace agreement with the Palestinians unless such a deal also addressed what he called the Jewish state’s even more intractable conflict with its Arab citizens.

“We do not have a separate conflict with the Palestinians, and anyone who claims so, does not understand what he is talking about or is being deliberately misleading,” Liberman told a crowd at a parlor meeting in central Israeli town of Kiryat Ono, one of dozens being held by the right-wing party in the run-up to the September elections.

“Our conflict is with the entire Muslim world, with the entire Arab world,” the former defense minister said, in comments pitting the Jewish state against 1.8 billion adherents of Islam and 22 Arab countries.

“The conflict is three-dimensional — with the Arab countries, with the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. And the third conflict, with Israeli Arabs, is the most difficult,” Liberman continued, in comments reported by Zman Yisrael [Hebrew], the Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, and approved for publication by Liberman though the event was billed as closed to press.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman speaking at a parlor event in Ramat Gan, July 9, 2019. (Shachar Azran)

Therefore, he continued, “the arrangement must be three-dimensional and simultaneous with the Arab League, with Israeli Arabs and with the Palestinians.”

“Any attempt to reach a separate agreement with the Palestinians or the Arabs of Israel will fail,” Liberman added,

He recalled that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas turned down an offer by former prime minister Ehud Olmert at a peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2008, which the Yisrael Beytenu head said was “the best proposal the Palestinians could have received.”

Redrawing Israel’s borders to exclude major Arab population centers that lie on the Israeli side of the Green Line has long been a major policy point for Liberman, and one that has been thrashed as “racist” by Arab Israeli lawmakers.

Umm El-Fahm in northern Israel, December 31, 2011. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

His plan calls for towns in the “triangle” region southeast of Haifa, including heavily populated Arab cities, to become part of a Palestinian state in any peace agreement in exchange for Jewish settlement areas of the West Bank coming under Israeli sovereignty.

Liberman has said in the past that the Arab residents of the cities in question strongly identify with the Palestinian cause, including rejecting the right of Israel to exist and aligning themselves with those seeking to destroy the Jewish state.

Arab Israelis represent one-fifth of the Israeli population.

On Monday, Liberman lashed out at the Arab Israeli leadership, saying it was “total madness” that Israel tolerated elected representatives in the Knesset who sided with its enemies.

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Hadash-Ta’al Arab Israeli party and former chair of the now-defunct Joint List was not immediately available to comment.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report, which was adapted from a version published on Zman Yisrael, the Hebrew sister site of The Times of Israel.

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