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Telegraph (UK) on Avigdor Lieberman--11/5/06

 Jews and Arabs can never live together, says Israel's vice PM


By Harry de Quetteville in Jerusalem, The Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:13am GMT 05/11/2006
www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/>
*When Avigdor Lieberman, a populist Israeli politician frequently
compared to Austria's Jörg Haider and France's Jean-Marie le Pen,
proposed to bus thousands of Palestinians to the Dead Sea and drown them
there, he was just a fringe member of government. *
* *
*Avigdor Lieberman*

*Avigdor Lieberman: 'Separation is the best solution'

*

*That was three years ago. But last week * *the controversial
nationalist joined the coalition government *
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/10/24/wmid124.xml>*led
by Ehud Olmert in a much more senior role, as vice prime minister with
special responsibility for Israel's most pressing issue: the threat from
Iran. *

*In his first interview since taking office – exclusively with The
Sunday Telegraph – Mr Lieberman said that the best means of achieving
peace in the Middle East would be for Jews and Arabs to live apart,
including those Arabs who now live inside Israel. *

*Israel was on the "front line of a clash of civilisations between the
free world and extremist Islam," he said.*

*On Iran, he said: "Every week, the president of Iran declares his
intention to destroy us." *

*advertisement*

*Mr Lieberman, 48, the leader of Yisrael Beitanu (Israel Our Home), who
has previously urged Israel to bomb Teheran, said: "Iran is the base of
an axis of evil which is a problem for all the world." *

*Mr Lieberman, whose addition to the coalition as "strategic threat"
minister prompted the resignation of a cabinet colleague, also said that
Israel's 1.25 million Arab minority was a "problem" which required
"separation" from the Jewish state. "We established Israel as a Jewish
country," he said. "I want to provide an Israel that is a Jewish,
Zionist country. It's about what kind of country we want to see in the
future. Either it will be an [ethnically mixed] country like any other,
or it will continue as a Jewish country." *

*Ophir Pines-Paz, the former culture minister who resigned in protest,
decried Mr Lieberman's politics as "racist", adding that the new vice
prime-minister – a former bouncer who emigrated from the former Soviet
republic of Moldova in 1978 – was himself "a strategic threat to Israel". *

*Beyond that, however, protest has been muted. There have been no mass
demonstrations. Few voters or politicians seem scandalised as they were
in 2003.*

*Analysts say the smooth appointment of a man recently considered an
extremist -rabble-rouser is a sign of political radicalisation in Israel.*

*"After the summer war in Lebanon, many Israelis have moved to the
Right," said Gideon Doron, professor of political science at Tel Aviv
University. "They think security is bad and trust Palestinians and Arabs
less. They don't believe in the possibility of peace through
negotiations, so Lieberman has become the centre of a new consensus." *

*Mr Olmert has insisted that the addition of Israel Our Home to his
coalition is * *tactical rather than political*
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/10/09/wisrael09.xml>*.
It bolsters his majority in the Knesset to 78 out of 120 seats, allowing
him a margin of security in a country known for its revolving-door
governments.*

*But while Mr Olmert says Israel Our Home will not change government
policy, it seems almost inconceivable that the prime minister's main
election promise of withdrawing tens of thousands of Jewish settlers
from the West Bank will be implemented with Mr Lieberman – himself a
settler – in the cabinet. *

*Mr Lieberman, for one, has other ideas. He has no intention of
withdrawing Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.*

*Instead, he wants to keep them while, "in return", redrawing Israel's
border to eject thousands of Israeli Arabs from the country.*

*"Minorities are the biggest problem in the world," he said in his soft,
Russian-accented English. Asked if Israeli citizens of Arab descent
should be forced out through territorial redistribution, he said: "I
think separation between two nations is the best solution. Cyprus is the
best model. Before 1974, the Greeks and Turks lived together and there
were frictions and bloodshed and terror. *

*"After 1974, they constituted all Turks on one part of the island, all
Greeks on the other part of the island and there is stability and
security."*

*When it was pointed out that in Cyprus thousands were forcibly driven
from their homes, he replied: "Yes, but the final result was better."*

*Later, an aide to Mr Lieberman tried to flesh out his remarks. "Israeli
Arabs don't have to go," he said. "But if they stay they have to take an
oath of allegiance to Israel as a Jewish Zionist state." *

*Mr Lieberman does not explain how he plans to separate Jews and Arabs
in Jerusalem, whose eastern half is home to several hundred thousand
Palestinians but which Israel has annexed to form its "eternal and
undivided capital". The aide said: "He will not compromise on Jerusalem." *

*Such hawkish, straightforward sentiments have made Mr Lieberman the
most powerful new force in Israeli politics. Since he split with the
Likud party and its leader, the former prime minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, to form his own party in 1999, he has in effect monopolised
the votes of more than a million Russian immigrants. At elections
earlier this year, Israel Our Home demolished Likud's traditional grip
on the Right to win 11 seats. *

*Mr Lieberman insists that the world must unite against "an axis of evil
led by Iran. Iran is the biggest threat. It's a problem for the whole
world, but Israel really has a bad location. We are on the front line
between the clash of civilisations between the free world and the
extremist Islamic world." *

*His use of the phrase "clash of civilisations" is another example of
what Mr Doron calls Mr Lieberman's "popular straight-talking". But there
is one subject on which Mr Lieberman is uncharacteristically coy. When
asked if he wants to lead the country one day, he smiled and said: "It's
too early for that." *
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