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PA: Liberman appointment shows Israel no partner for peace

Palestinian Foreign Ministry says move is PM’s response to international peace push; MK Zoabi calls for global boycott of government

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Avigdor Liberman speaks at a cornerstone laying ceremony for a new synagogue at his home settlement of Nokdim, October 23, 2014. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90
Avigdor Liberman speaks at a cornerstone laying ceremony for a new synagogue at his home settlement of Nokdim, October 23, 2014. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday denounced the likely appointment of hard-line former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman as Israel’s defense minister, saying the move showed the Jewish state was not a partner for peace.

In a statement posted on its official Facebook page, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the reported appointment “reconfirms the lack of a partner for peace in Israel,” and said it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to recent international efforts to kick-start the peace process.

Liberman has reportedly accepted the position, which would put him in control of Israel’s army as well as the civilian administration of the West Bank, as part of a deal to bring his six-seat Yisrael Beytenu party into Netanyahu’s coalition.

“This development in the scene of the coalition of the government in Israel does not surprise the foreign ministry, nor whoever daily follows the procedures and violations carried out by the extremist Netanyahu government against the Palestinian people, which reflect the racist, radical and violent nature of the politics of the Netanyahu governments since day one,” the statement said.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at a press conference in the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 18, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at a press conference in the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 18, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The inclusion of Liberman, known for his extreme right-wing stance toward the Palestinians, is new evidence that Netanyahu as usual, has ever preferred to promote extremism in his government, which has become, as described by the Hebrew media, the most extreme government in Israel’s history,” the ministry continued.

The statement also called Netanyahu’s decision to nominate Liberman a response “to the French, international and regional efforts to revive the peace process between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and sends a strong message to the world that Israel prefers extremism and to perpetuate the occupation and settlement over peace.”

Boycott calls

Liberman’s new appointment sparked brash statements from members of the Joint (Arab) List party, including his political nemesis MK Hanin Zoabi.

The Yisrael Beytenu leader’s hawkish politics and bombastic rhetoric have made him, in the eyes of Arab Israelis and Palestinians, one of the most detested Israeli lawmakers.

File: Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, November 2, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
File: Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, November 2, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Zoabi on Thursday called for an international boycott of the government, and lamented that such a step had not been instituted when Liberman was first appointed foreign minister in 2009. Such a move, she said, could have prevented the current situation in which “dangerous fascists that should be in jail are now standing at the top of the pyramid of ruling power.”

She cited Liberman’s support for the soldier in Hebron who killed a wounded Palestinian assailant, and his comment last year that “those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done – we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head.”

Fellow Joint List MK Masud Ganaim said the appointment would be the source of “real alarm for the citizens of Israel.”

Joint List MK Masud Ganaim at his Knesset office, March 10, 2014 (Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)
Joint List MK Masud Ganaim at his Knesset office, March 10, 2014 (Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

“Maybe,” Ganaim said in a statement, “the alarm will start as a rocket siren in the south or the north, and perhaps it will begin with the bombing of Cairo, the Aswan Dam, or the Istanbul of [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan,” a reference to Liberman’s previous verbal attacks on the Egyptian and Turkish leadership.

Raoul Wootliff and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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