Palestinian officials say Liberman will promote “settler” interests
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s efforts to expand his governing coalition hit a possible snag over several of incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s demands on the death penalty for terrorists and a pension plan for immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made the rounds of the general staff today, and told Israel Radio he intends to compete for the leadership one day. Ya’alon also lashed out against the current Israeli government that he resigned from.
“I have fought with all my strength against radicalization, violence and racism in Israeli society, which threatens its resilience and percolates also into the IDF (Israeli army), already causing it harm,” he said. “I have fought with all my strength against attempts to harm the Supreme Court and Israel’s judges, processes whose result will cause grave damage to the rule of law and could be disastrous for our country. I hope that the general public, too, on right and left, understands the serious consequences of the takeover of the center by an extremist minority, and will fight these phenomena. This is existential; the state’s existence depends on it.”
Ya’alon was pushed out to make room for former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who will become Defense Minister once the deal goes through. Liberman, who lives in a community in the West Bank on land that Israel acquired in 1967, is known as a hardliner. As one of the conditions for entering the government, Liberman is demanding the death penalty for terrorists. Israel currently only has the death penalty for Nazi war crimes, and has only executed one man, Adolph Eichmann. Israeli press reports say that the death penatly will only apply in Israeli military courts, where Palestinians are tried, rather than in civilian courts.
Liberman also wants pension plans for thousands of elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, a plan that is expected to cost the Israeli government hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Palestinian officials have also been critical of Israel’s expected new defense minister.
“Liberman is an illegal settler living inside occupied terrritory,” Xavier Abu Eid, an advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told The Media Line. “He has advocated for terror policies and even advocated for population transfer at the United Nations General Assembly.”
He was referring to a plan promoted by Liberman to annex parts of the West Bank with large Jewish populations and in exchange to attach part of Israel with a majority of Arab citizens of Israel to a future Palestinian state.
Liberman has also called for a stepped-up campaign of assassination of the Islamist Hamas in Gaza.
“We do not call for war, but we would fight if it was imposed upon us,” Hamas official Fathi Hammad said. Hammad added that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “does not have a place in the leadership of our people and he should step aside.”
Criticism within Israel has come from the fact that Liberman has no military experience. Officials within Likud are urging the public to give him a chance.
“As someone who has known Avigdor Liberman personally for more than 20 years, I am convinced that he will make an excellent Minister of Defense,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Jerusalem Post conference in NY. “I believe that is good every once in a while, we have a defense minister who does not come from the military establishment. Someone from the outside can bring fresh thinking and fresh perspective to the IDF.”
Outgoing Defense Minister Ya’alon’s departure paves the way for the next Knesset member on the list to be sworn in. The new Likud member is Yehuda Glick, an American-born activist who has worked to allow Jews to pray at a site in Jerusalem that is holy to Jews and Muslims. He almost died in 2014 when a Palestinin attacker shot him at close range.
The site has been a flashpoint for violence and Netanyahu has insisted there are no plans to change the status quo and allow Jewish worship at the site.