Friday, August 1, 2014

Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman and the Palestinian Problem

In a previous posting, I examined the basic tenets of Palestine's Hamas political party.  In the interest of balance, let's now look in some detail at the raison d'être of , Yisrael Beiteinu, the right-wing political party that shares power with Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party .

The leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, which means "Israel Our Home", is Avigdor Lieberman who now serves as Israel's Minster of Foreign Affairs: 

When Lieberman immigrated to Israel from Russia in 1978, he belonged to the Kahane LaKnesset (or Kach) Party which adopted the radical ideology of Rabbai Meir Kahane who advocated for the ethnic cleansing of Israel and Palestine of all Arabs who would be expelled to Jordan.  Interestingly, in 1994, the United States Department of State listed Kach as a foreign terrorist organization, however, it still exists and raised funds from supporters in Europe and the United States.  When the Kach Party was banned by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1988, Lieberman went on to serve as Director General of the Likud Party from 1993 to 1998 until he left to form Beiteinu in 1999.  Beiteinu's political base predominantly consists of the roughly one million Jewish immigrants from Russia and the ex-Soviet states, particularly those who favour a hardline approach to negotiations with Palestinians.

Avigdor Lieberman's plan rests on his mindset that two ethnic and religious groups cannot co-exist peacefully within the same state.  Beiteinu's "Lieberman Plan" also known as the "Populated Area Plan" of 2004 calls for an exchange of territories that are currently illegally occupied by Israeli settlers; the result would strip both land and citizenship for ethnic Arab Israelis who, in return, would receive the largely Arab parts of Israel that they currently occupy.    Keep in mind that Arabs make up roughly 20 percent of Israeli citizens (approximately 1.5 million Palestinians have Israeli citizenship) and are found mainly in areas that are contiguous with the West Bank.  It is these areas in southern and central Galilee, the northern part of the Negev Desert and an area on the northwest tip of the West Bank that would be swapped for settled lands.

For your illumination and to give you some idea of the scope of the problem, here is a map from the United Nations showing the West Bank Israeli settlements in purple, the land cultivated by settlers in grey and the risk of settler violence in 2012:

Under the original Lieberman Plan, there would be 25 non-contiguous (separate) reservations in the West Bank.  The West Bank would essentially remain under Israeli occupation.  In early 2014, Ehud Keinan, a Foreign Ministry legal advisor concluded that a transfer plan would be in line with international law if it:

1.) had the consent of the Palestinian Authority.

2.) had a prohibition on making Palestinians stateless.

3.) had a compensation scheme for those who are left outside Israeli borders.

In Lieberman's blog entry from July 20, 2013, we find the following:

"It is important to handle negotiations, and even more importantly, that negotiations should be handled on the basis of reality and not illusions.

I have said many times that the Israel-Palestinian conflict can not be resolved, at least not in the coming years, and what is possible and important is to manage the conflict.

The position of Yisrael Beytenu regarding the basic principles of negotiation are clear: Do not agree that negotiations will be conducted on the basis of the pre-1967 lines (which Abba Eban called the Auschwitz borders) and it is important to clarify in advance, at the beginning of the negotiations, that there will be no settlement freeze. Not in Jerusalem or in any communities in Judea and Samaria. Other than that, Yisrael Beytenu will closely follow the negotiations and determine its position according to developments. (my bold)

Given that we will not agree to a freeze and to avoid surprises and and misunderstandings during later stages, we should inform in advance the American mediators and the Palestinians of the situation and the units that will be built already in the pipeline for construction.

To avoid disappointments and unwanted results, it is vital to specify in advance what can and what can not be achieved. The maximum that can be achieved is a long-term interim arrangement based on security and economic cooperation, with the major policy decisions, borders and Jerusalem, postponed until much later. Cooperation in security and the economy is in the interest of both parties, first and foremost of the Palestinians.

Regional conditions do not allow the isolation of the conflict in the Middle East. Given the inability of the Arab League to bring peace even within its member states, it is absurd to hang hopes on their agreement and think that this has any practical significance.

It is important to address issues concerning Abu Mazen. Mahmoud Abbas does not represent the people of Gaza or Judea and Samaria and it is not clear his government has any legitimacy as elections meant to be held in the Palestinian Authority more than 3 years ago were repeatedly postponed. As with the Arab League, here too there is an absurd attitude of the Western world to an unelected ruler. Beyond these facts, it is also clear that Abbas is unable to sign an end to the conflict and give up the on the “right of return”. (my bold)

Here is a further quote from the Yisrael Beitenyu website about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:

"The belief that the root of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict is territorial, and therefore can be solved by giving up territory, is a grave error.   Arab terrorism against Jews, starting with the arrival of the early pioneers at the beginning of the twentieth century is the root of the problem. The deadly pogrom in Hebron (1929), the Great Arab Revolt in the 30s and other incidents all occurred before the establishment of the State. In addition, Fatah and the PLO were established before 1967.  It is important note that during the 19 years between 1948 to 1967, no Palestinian state was established, and no one claimed the West Bank as a sovereign state.  It is obvious that the pursuit of a Palestinian state and the “right of return” is designed to disguise the real purpose, which is to wipe out Israel as a Jewish and Zionist country.

Gaza is a terrorist entity run by an Islamist organization: Hamas.  It is part of the Axis of Evil. ”Yisrael Beytenu” sees Gaza and the West Bank as two separate entities and will act to prevent current passage of people and goods between them.  Negotiations with the PA only concern Judea and Samaria.   Israel should declare after giving a reasonable amount of notice that crossings between Gaza and the West Bank are closed.  The Disengagement from Gaza should be complete – as then Prime Minister Sharon promised: no goods, no electricity, fuel, water, jobs, money transfers etc." (my bold)

In the 2009 election, Yisrael Beiteinu campaigned under the slogan "No Loyalty, No Citizenship".  In that election, the party won 15 seats.  They were less successful in the 2013 election, winning only 11 seats while running jointly with Likud.

Keeping in mind that this is the platform that Yisrael Beiteinu and its leader Avigdor Leiberman ran on in association with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party in 2013 and you can see that the Israel-side of the Palestine - Israel conflict is going to be difficult to implement any semblance of long-term "peace" just as it will be difficult to get Hamas to admit that its philosophy toward the existence of Israel needs to be modified.  When Israel's powerful Foreign Minister belongs to a party that claims that Gaza is part of the Axis of Evil, the road to peace will be a very long one.


  1. Israel has a somewhat unusual political system that is very foreign to North American voters. The Israeli system has no concept of geographical representation, but rather uses a pure proportional allocation of seats. Voters choose a party, rather than a candidate, at the ballot box. The percentage popular vote share for each party is then tallied up and used to allocate the 120 seats in the Knesset (there is a threshold vote share, in the low single digits percentage-wise, needed to win a seat). The seats are then given to party representatives based on a list drawn up before the election. For example, in the 2013 elections, the Labour Party won a little over 11% of the popular vote, and so earned 15 seats in the Knesset (11% of 120), and the top 15 people on its list occupied those seats.

    The nature of the system -- a complete absence of what we would call "first-past-the-post" -- makes it very easy for parties to form and dissolve. New parties pop up all the time, old parties split or merge with each other. No single party gains a majority of the seats in the Knesset (though this may have been the case in the past, it hasn't been the case since the 1980s at least). Instead, after each election, a round of political horse-trading takes place in which parties attempt to build a coalition. This usually involves promising cabinet positions to prominent members of the coalition-partner parties. It is through mechanisms like these that guys like Avigdor Lieberman can become Foreign Minister (though in fact the Yisrael Beiteinu-Likud coalition was formed as a common list before the election, in this case) even though Yisrael Beiteinu itself polled somewhere under 10%.

    The nature of the political system in Israel ends up giving a lot of clout to small parties, as the larger parties jockey for their affections (attempting to draw them into their coalitions in exchange for cabinet posts or legislative favours). This is how the relatively small ultra-religious parties have traditionally wielded their influence in government.

    At the same time, a lot of checks and balances result from the layout of government. The second party in the current Knesset, Yesh Atid, is a centre-left group whose main focus is civic affairs and integration of the ultra-Orthodox into public life. They are part of the government coalition, but threatened to pull out (thus toppling the government) if any decision were made to annex the settlements.

    The fact that the most powerful non-Likud parties in the current Knesset -- Yisrael Beiteinu and Yesh Atid -- are avowedly secular (or at best, strongly anti-clerical) is an important point, and a powerful rejoinder to those who see the current conflict as primarily a religious one.

  2. @Joe Q. I did not know that about their system of Gov. Thanks for the info. On the subject of the conflict i personally don't care what they do but we (USA) needs to stop giving either side anything let them work out their issues. I really can't see how a nation in so much debt still gives money to other countries?

  3. Joe Q.

    Thanks for your comment. It makes it a lot easier for those of us that are used to the first-past-the-post system to understand.


  4. I have one comment. Israel should abide by UN Resolutions 242 and 465 immediately. We have a United Nations and an International Court of Justice for this purpose. Israel's continuous refusal to accept and abide by the UN Resolutions and International Law warrants NO further reading of any israeli dogma.

  5. I maintain my previous position which did not seem to get past the auditors. The issue is moot. Israel must abide by UN Resolutions 242 and 465 repeated endorsed by the greater part of countries on this globe. Israel should abide by international law and return land gained through warfare. Israel is again breaking international law by relocating indigenous populations caused by warfare and occupying those people's land.