Far Right Extremist Avigdor Lieberman says Swedish Recognition of Palestine will Strengthen Extremists

By Juan Cole

There was a time when people like Avigdor Lieberman were not welcome in Israeli politics, or, indeed, in Jewish circles in the United States. Dogged by accusations of corruption (though acquitted in the Israeli courts) and widely considered a racist and flamethrower, Lieberman has emerged as Foreign Minister, a powerful cabinet post. There is no European cabinet minister who comes close to Lieberman’s far, far right positions, and if there were he or she would be boycotted by the other Europeans. Probably Hungary’s Jobbik (some 1/5 of parliament seats) comes closest to the themes of the ruling Israeli far right at the moment.

Lieberman denounced Sweden’s recognition of Palestine on Thursday, saying:

“The decision of the Swedish government to recognise a Palestinian state is a deplorable decision which only strengthens extremist elements and Palestinian rejectionism . . . It is a shame that the Swedish government chose to take this declarative step which causes a lot of harm and offers no advantage . . . The Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are a lot more complex than the self-assembly furniture of IKEA and that they have to act with responsibility and sensitivity.”

So Lieberman led a charge to reject the John Kerry peace process in 2013-2014, and Lieberman’s colleagues on the Israeli cabinet called Secretary Kerry “messianic” and said they wished he would leave them alone. That is, the “rejectionists” are the Israeli government, the leaders of which refuse to recognize Palestine. Palestine recognized Israel two decades ago, giving away this key card for the sake of initiating the Oslo Peace process, which Israeli leaders such as Binyamin Netanyahu derailed, stealing ever more Palestinian territory on the Occupied West Bank and planting hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatters there, far beyond the recognized borders of Israel.

As for extremism, here are Lieberman’s positions:

“The The Electronic Intifada lists “Some of Avigdor Lieberman’s infamous statements”:

‘ # In 1998, Lieberman called for the flooding of Egypt by bombing the Aswan Dam in retaliation for Egyptian support for Yasser Arafat.

# In 2001, as Minister of National Infrastructure, Lieberman proposed that the West Bank be divided into four cantons, with no central Palestinian government and no possibility for Palestinians to travel between the cantons.

# In 2002, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Lieberman in a Cabinet meeting saying that the Palestinians should be given an ultimatum that “At 8am we’ll bomb all the commercial centers … at noon we’ll bomb their gas stations … at two we’ll bomb their banks …”

# In 2003, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Lieberman called for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide the buses to take them there.

# In May 2004, Lieberman proposed a plan that called for the transfer of Israeli territory with Palestinian populations to the Palestinian Authority. Likewise, Israel would annex the major Jewish settlement blocs on the Palestinian West Bank. If applied, his plan would strip roughly one-third of Israel’s Palestinian citizens of their citizenship. A “loyalty test” would be applied to those who desired to remain in Israel. This plan to trade territory with the Palestinian Authority is a revision of Lieberman’s earlier calls for the forcible transfer of Palestinian citizens of Israel from their land. Lieberman stated in April 2002 that there was “nothing undemocratic about transfer.”

# Also in May 2004, he said that 90 percent of Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens would “have to find a new Arab entity” in which to live beyond Israel’s borders. “They have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost,” he said.

# In May 2006, Lieberman called for the killing of Arab members of Knesset who meet with members of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.’ ”

Now that’s extreme. And it doesn’t even cover all Lieberman’s outrageous comments of the past 8 years.

As for Sweden, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström observed, “We are not picking sides. We’re choosing the side of the peace process… The government believes that the international law criteria for the recognition of the State of Palestine has been met. There is a territory, there is a population and there is a government”.

Responding to journalist Hala Gorani concerning Lieberman’s crack about Ikea, Wallström is said to have remarked:

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Related video:

RuptlyTV: “Sweden: Swedish FM comments on Palestinian recognition”

13 Responses

  1. A bit off-topic, but Al Jazeera is broadcasting a documentary which addresses the Israeli mindset, which is the sometimes unrecognized undercurrent of posts such as this one.

    The documentary tells the tale of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty during the 1967 war, and the subsequent cover-up. As a centerpiece, the producer uses a previously disappeared audio-tape of the tactical communications between the attackers. The entire broadcast is on the following link.

    link to aljazeera.com

    What motivated the attack and the mindset encouraged by how Washington handled the matter, set the precedent for US/Israel relationship ever since. Although there is a tragedy in how those men died and their ship all but sunk, the real damage, as the piece concludes, goes far deeper.

  2. Dr Vleib

    totally amazing riposte from FM #Wallstrom — everyone in #Sweden is laughing. A thought-provoking exchange indeed. Resist bullies!

  3. I think we should increase our purchase of IKEA products to show support of Sweden’s fairness!

  4. Uri Avnery confirms the obvious (for some, at least) that Netanyahu shares Lieberman’s mindset though using subtle language: “Prime Minister “Chickenshit”: The Method to Netanyahu’s Madness” by URI AVNERY – link to counterpunch.org

  5. A couple of additional points:

    (1)Lieberman had previously been a card-carrying member of the later-outlawed Kach Party founded by U.S. born Rabbi Meir Kahane;

    (2)Rabbi Kahane’s father was a close friend of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism, who is today regarded as one of Israel’s most respected historical leaders and having many parks and other public places named after him;

    (3) Benzion Netanyahu, also a Revisionist Zionist, was an admirer of and served as a personal secretary to Ze’ev Jabotinsky – he is the father of the current Israeli PM and is considered to have a profound influence on his son’s political worldview.

    PM Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Kahane are politically indistinguishable in their respective attitudes toward Palestinians.

    • Jabotinsky was also a member of Betar, the Zionist fascist paramilitary in Poland after WWI. Fascism was quite the fad in those days. Israel is the only place where it is allowed to flourish in our time.

  6. It’s been interesting following the reactions on the editorials of major Swedish newspapers summarized here:
    link to omni.se

    The reaction is split, with a slight dominance of positive reactions. The most extreme negative response was from Per Gudmundson on the Right wing Svenska Dagbladet who wrote that “To recognize Palestine now would be to reward destructivity. The Palestinians have just conducted a war of aggression against Israel”.

  7. Dogged by accusations of corruption (though acquitted in the Israeli courts) and widely considered a racist and flamethrower, Lieberman has emerged as Foreign Minister, a powerful cabinet post.

    For some reason this reminds me of an old Western movie in which the townspeople invited gunslingers to provide them protection but they ultimately took over and oppressed the people. Lotsaluck, Bibi.

  8. Bill, maybe they misunderstood the term “foreign minister” and expected him to leave the country :-)

  9. I think comments by Lieberman should be totally ignored… Discussing their merit may give the impression that there may be something to discuss there.. The man has average intelligence and is jerk and a bully. He has gained popularity by adopting an anti-Palestinian extremist speech that appealed to the right. Netanyahu and Liebermen are very similar, they both talk tough and have no intention to make peace with the Palestinians. The only difference between the two is that Netanyahu is slightly smarter.

    • The difference is that Netanyahu speaks perfect American English. This helps a lot with his quarterly fundraising trips to the US. As for the other fellow, I see no difference between him and Hamas leaders: both ethnocentric fanatics.

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