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We are the fools, not Lieberman

The Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is the person who expresses most truthfully the feelings of most Israelis, or those of the government coalition parties in Tel Aviv. The man makes statements and demands that sound outrageous on first hearing, but soon turn into the policies and positions adopted by Israeli governments.

Many disregarded Lieberman's demands for Arab recognition of Israel as the state of the Jews, and denounced his calls for the expulsion of all non-Jewish citizens. Such calls were, though, made frequently by the leader of the supposedly moderate Kadima Party, Tzipi Livni; were adopted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and, later, persuaded US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of their validity.

Lieberman himself created new waves when he proposed the inclusion of a delegation of Israeli Arabs in the current negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. In doing so, he was letting the world know that he sees no place for these "strangers" in the racist Jewish state. If anyone needs further evidence of his intentions, Lieberman has also asked for the issue of "population exchange" to be put on the agenda of the peace talks; in Lieberman's racist world, there is no place for Arabs in Jewish Israel.

The Assistant Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Sabih, has rejected Lieberman's remarks, describing them as foolish and the Foreign Minister as racist. Mr. Sabih has called on the US administration and the Quartet to put pressure on the Israelis for an end to such overt racism. However, Washington will probably pay no heed to the Arab League or Mr. Sabih's request because the Americans know that the organisation has no influence or value. Avigdor Lieberman, they believe, is merely exercising his right to "freedom of speech", like the Danish cartoonist who insulted the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and the religious sensitivities of one-fifth of the world's population.

Moreover, the problem is not Lieberman and his racist comments, but the Palestinian Authority's leadership and negotiators. They first reject Israeli proposals and then accept them meekly and literally, encouraging Netanyahu and his team to make new demands without any requirement to abide by the previous demands.

When the Palestinian negotiators agreed on the principle of a "land for peace" deal, and thus the recognition of large Jewish settlement blocs around Jerusalem as part of Israel, they opened the way for the Israelis – backed by the Americans – to demand population exchange as well. The logic is simple: why accept a land swap but refuse a population swap? It's not Lieberman who is the fool; it's us.

Source: Al Quds Al Arabi

Asia & AmericasCommentary & AnalysisIsraelMiddle EastPalestineUS
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