'Ariel for Israel, Umm el-Fahm for Palestine'

Avigdor Liberman says Yisrael Beytenu will join any government which supports its controversial 'transfer' plan, with major land swaps.

Yaakov Levi,

Liberman unveils Yisrael Beytenu's election campaign: "Ariel for Israel, Um el-Fahm for Pa
Liberman unveils Yisrael Beytenu's election campaign: "Ariel for Israel, Um el-Fahm for Pa
Ben Kelmer/Flash 90

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday introduced Yisrael Beytenu's new election campaign – which looks a lot like its old campaign. The centerpiece, as Liberman presented it, is his version of “transfer,” in which Israel will transfer areas of the country with large Arab populations to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for areas in Judea and Samaria with Jewish populations, which would be annexed to Israel proper.

The party's main slogan, said Liberman, would be “Ariel (the city in central Samaria) to Israel, Umm el-Fahm to Palestine.” Ariel, a city of some 25,000, is one of the largest Jewish towns in Samaria, and the center of a large settlement bloc. Umm el-Fahm, in the Wadi Ara area, is the center of a large Arab population. Currently, the security fence between Israel and PA-controlled areas runs east of Umm el-Fahm, separating Umm el-Faham and Jenin. Liberman has proposed for years moving that fence west of Umm el-Faham, placing that town and all of its surrounding villages in the PA, without forcing anyone to leave their homes.

Under the arrangement, Israel would relinquish most of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority, while retaining the major settlement blocs, at the very least. In exchange, Israel would surrender territory within the pre-1948 armistice lines, such as the so-called "Triangle" area, north of Kfar Saba, and the Wadi Ara area. Under Liberman's plan, Arab cities such as Tira and Umm el-Fahm would be transferred to PA control, with the security fence rebuilt from the east side of these cities to the west side. Although Arabs have decried Liberman as proposing a “transfer,” his plan does not require anyone to move anywhere.

Liberman said that he would be willing to be a part of any government that supported his platform. “I have never made a specific commitment to anyone,” said the Foreign Minister of Binyamin Netanyahu's government, whose Yisrael Beytenu party joined with the Likud in the 2013 elections. “I want a government that will have specific objectives. We do not plan to be in a government that will negotiate with PA chief Mahmoud Abbas – such talks aren't doing any good. On the other hand, the current situation is not benefitting us, and we need to take some initiatives.”

In fact, said Liberman, Israel needed to act to get rid of Abbas, who is clearly not interested in a settlement with Israel. At the same time, Israel needed to eliminate Hamas. He did not say who he preferred to see leading the PA, although there were reports several weeks ago – denied by Liberman – that the Yisrael Beytenu chairman had met with Mohammed Dahlan, a former top PA official who is seen as a rival for Abbas's PA leadership.

While Liberman's conditions would seem to indicate that he would not join a government led by Labor, which has committed to entering into immediate negotiations with the PA, Liberman said things weren't that simple; he had other conditions as well. “I heard that the Likud and Jewish Home have already made promises to hareidi parties on changing some laws, such as the conversion law. We will not join such a government either.”

Regarding his prospects, Liberman said that “dozens” of people had asked to join his list, but that he was planning on choosing only 16, and that he believed the party would get all of them into the Knesset. Recent polls have shown Yisrael Beytenu achieving between 6 and 10 seats.




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