Israeli Arab members of parliament are once again condemning Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman tonight, following comments by Lieberman at today’s cabinet meeting suggesting that the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority should focus around expelling large masses of Israel’s Arab ethnic minority from the nation.
Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party won large numbers of seats in the last election by campaigning around accusing Israeli Arabs of disloyality and demanding them to take a loyalty oath to the Israeli government or lose their citizenship.
Ahmed Tibi, one of the handful of Arab MPs that represent the nation’s Arab minority (which constitutes some 20% of the population) responded to Lieberman’s comments by saying “whoever got here in the last century should leave first.” Lieberman himself is a relatively recent immigrant to Israel, coming from the former Soviet Union.
Lieberman’s party was at the center of a failed effort ahead of he last vote to ban Tibi and a number of other members of Arab parties from even contesting the election on the grounds that they don’t accept the notion of Israel as a “Jewish state.” The attempted bannings centered around party documents calling for equality for all citizens regardless of religion.
Lieberman’s sudden interest in the peace process, which he has openly derided from the start, is primarily based around his idea to convert it into a program for the mass expulsion of Arabs from Israel. Whether it is a genuine effort to complete his long-advocated expulsion programme or simply an effort to “poison the well” for the talks remains anyone’s guess, but either way it suggests Lieberman will continue to play a role.