Another write-up about Lieberman.
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz.com
January 28, 2009
No doubt about it, Operation Cast Lead completely transformed the public agenda, but the absence of Jerusalem from the public discourse just before the election is very disturbing. After all, no one really has any illusions: The day after a new government is formed in Israel, the issue of Jerusalem will come up again. The Palestinians, assisted by U.S. President Barack Obama, who has already pledged to be aggressive on the Middle East, will pressure Israel to make Olmert's legacy and his pledges a reality, and the public has a right to know now how its elected officials will behave.
Will they go the route of former prime minister Menachem Begin, who more than 25 years ago lashed out at the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Samuel Lewis, telling him Israel was not a banana republic and that Israel would make do with bread and margarine if necessary, but would not accept dictates? Or will they act like Livni, who warned the public this week against Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, arguing that his positions would lead to a clash with the United States?
There were many who were unenthusiastic about Begin's rigid stance, but many more appreciated it. The concern Livni raises over Netanyahu may show that the times and public tastes have changed, but it also shows a transformation in the backbone of the country's leadership.
During the era of Ariel Sharon, Olmert and Livni, coordination with the United States became sanctified to absurd levels; sometimes it was not clear whether it was a means or an end. But today as well, even though the approaches of our political leaders are so different from that of Begin, it seems that the Israeli public, with its healthy instinct, understands that coordination and consensus with the United States are not the be-all and end-all. The issue of Jerusalem, it is to be hoped, will illustrate this. But first, the public must know how its leaders intend to act when it comes to this issue.
Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, the rising star of recent opinion polls, stood only a few months ago in the City of David area of Jerusalem and explained that his idea of exchanges of territory and populations also applies to Jerusalem, and that Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem like Jabal Mukkaber should be among those exchanged. Lieberman does not reveal to the wider public what Jerusalemites already know: Every neighborhood on the seam line has an adjacent or nearly adjacent Arab "outlying neighborhood." Jabal Mukkaber, for example, is a stone's throw and a gunshot away from the homes of Armon Hanatziv. The Qassam rockets fired on Sderot and Ashkelon would seem like child's play compared to what would happen here if such outlying neighborhoods are given up. It is enough to recall the firing from the Arab neighborhood of Beit Jala on the neighboring southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo - which went on for years, multiplying the point of friction and distributing it to hundreds of points along a dividing line dozens of kilometers long - to understand what a bizarre reality, one our politicians tend not to talk about, would be our lot.
But Lieberman is not alone among the dividers. Defense Minister Ehud Barak already gave up half of Jerusalem at Camp David in 2000, and was willing to share sovereignty on the Temple Mount as well. Livni's and Olmert's teams are ready for something similar. Even Netanyahu is not exempt from questions: What, for example, does he plan to do with the legacy left to him by Olmert, Livni and Barak, who have already agreed to divide the city? Does he intend to do what he did in 1996, when he divided Hebron, or is he prepared to pledge now unequivocably that this legacy - agreement in advance to divide Jerusalem, of which Olmert has informed the Obama administration - does not obligate him, and that talks on dividing the city are unacceptable?
Partition, beyond its significance in terms of values, history and religion, has additional practical implications: the high likelihood that tens of thousands of Palestinians will stream into the Jewish part of the city - just as those in the north have already begun moving to nearby parts of the capital within the separation fence - and the possibility that Jews will leave the city on a large scale, as occurred after partition in 1948. But these are trifles about which the parties do not really bother informing the public.
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