The leader of the party «Our home Israel» Avigdor Lieberman is refusing to join the government, despite proposals from the allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an interview with NEWSru.co.il leader NDI criticizes the government for «half-measures» against Arab terror, tells about the latest conflict between the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and John Kerry, and warns about the consequences of improperly constructed in the absorption process of new immigrants.
Mr. Lieberman, we were talking three months ago, when the current wave of terror is barely gained strength. Are you surprised by this development?
You know, in Hebrew there is a good expression – כתובת על הקיר (all was clear in advance). When I started my dispute with Netanyahu and Jalona during operation protective edge, I said to them: «If now is not to overthrow Hamas in Gaza, soon the terror will cover us in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and gush Dan». They waved, and here we see the result.
That is, you link what is happening today with the «unfinished work» in the summer of 2014?
Of course. First of all, we need to understand that contrary to the claims emanating from the offices of Netanyahu and ya’alon, the current intifada is not an initiative of one person, but a well planned action, and planned differently than anything we’ve seen so far. We are fighting the previous war and don’t want to look forward.
By whom it was planned?
Primarily Hamas militants, but they are not alone. Enough radical elements in Fatah, and other organizations. Please note, when the outbreak of the intifada? It started when Abbas returned from the session of the General Assembly of the United Nations and gave a clear indication to act. Before this nothing happened. Abbas was shocked how the Palestinian problem today is not on the agenda. The meeting discussed Syria, Ukraine, Islamic state. Palestinian themes were not.
And that Abbas went back and gave the go-ahead?
Of course. Because it was the first time a U.S. President was speaking at a session of the General Assembly and never mentioned the Palestinian issue. Abbas went back and gave the go-ahead. There should not be a great analyst, just look at the calendar. But as I said, this intifada is different. In 2015, there is no need to negotiate on the radio or to designate covert meetings, everything is done via the Internet, through social networks. There is brainwashing, there is now all the work is done. Hamas and not only Hamas and all radical groups have developed extensive network on the Internet, where you set the tone, trying to inspire action. Everything is done very clearly and correctly, relying primarily on the youth that is affected by social networks. We see Hamas said switch against attacks with knives for car bombings, we see that the was arrested the cell that carried out the terrorist attacks that use firearms, and it appeared that the Hamas militants. We see that after each attack Haniya appears in front of the cameras, praises terrorists and encourages them to continue. So everything is perfectly planned and organized.
Before the last election you talked about the fact that I see myself as Secretary of defense. Looking at what is happening with this position, how do you assess the actions of the government, the army?
Very much is being done incorrectly. The easiest example. From the office of the Minister of defence said that in Judea and Samaria sent four more battalions of military personnel to maintain order. Two battalions of the two reserve, two – conscripts. This is a mistake, it won’t work. As long as the soldiers will not be given the right tools, the amount will not crush. We must act effectively, and to take four combat battalions, to detach them from their teachings or from operational activities at the borders with Syria, Egypt or other places is just silly and irrational. At the disposal of the security forces have more than enough troops, but it’s completely ineffective.
What is the inefficiency?
In very many respects. First of all, I have repeatedly said that Israel remains the main financier of Palestinian terrorism. Israel transfers every month hundreds of millions of shekels to the Palestinian authority. This money is usually for two things. First of all, this payment of monthly allowances to families of Palestinian terrorist murderers. These families receive up to 14-15 thousand shekels a month. For comparison: the salary of a teacher in the school on the territory of the Palestinian authority does not exceed one thousand shekels. The second channel, receiving that money: the legal fees of terrorists in Israeli courts. That’s where our money goes.
I understand that this money is not ours, we just collected them.
Not so. At the time, had signed the so-called «Paris agreement» governing economic relations between us and autonomy. Under these agreements, Palestinians working in Israel, allocates part of the money to «bituach Leumi» on any other social funds. The part they pay themselves, and the part the employer pays, and the second part we translate the PNA.
I mean, it’s their money.
No, not them. It’s money workers. At the time, it was agreed that the leadership of the autonomy will create a Fund, similar to our «Leumi» from which they will be paid pension. Pension was not, and most importantly – will not. Nobody had in mind that the money will go to solving some current problems of autonomy or for the payment of allowances to families of terrorists. Before the elections, Netanyahu has prevented the transfer of the money, and in the first month after the election, resumed their translation. Why before the election could not translate, but after them it is impossible? Even less is understood on the background of all that is happening lately. But that’s not all. When Netanyahu finished the operation «enduring rock» was achieved an oral agreement, that is, «under the table», according to which, Israel has renounced its practice of targeted assassinations.
You claim that such an agreement exists.
No doubt. This was achieved with the active participation of various intermediaries. From the moment we finished the operation, there were no targeted killings. I understand quite well how our intelligence agencies work, and there is no doubt that the agreement exists. Most likely, there is no document, but the agreement is. And so Haniya and other leaders of gangs have the opportunity to pose in front of the television cameras, to go public, to speak at meetings, to scoff at the parents of IDF soldier Oron Shaul, hinting that he is alive and so on. Hamas ‘ leaders know very well that Netanyahu would not dare to any targeted removal.
Let’s go ahead. Israel agreed to return the bodies of killed terrorists. Why? Hamas is holding the bodies of two of our soldiers killed in Gaza are two of our citizens: immigrants from Ethiopia and the Bedouin. Meanwhile, we continue to return bodies of terrorists.
Many military – active and reserve – consider retaining bodies of terrorists inefficient. I interviewed major-General of reserve Uzi Dayan, and he also spoke against such a move.
This is a very effective measure, as evidenced by the transactions that have occurred in the past.
Another issue is the destruction of homes. Today we destroy the houses of those who killed Israelis. This is a complete hypochondria. Those who fired at the car of family Research in the area of Avnei Hefetz in Samaria and injured two people, intended to kill. What they did not work, no excuse, their home should also be destroyed.
And another thing, the most effective is the eviction of families of terrorists in Gaza. This should be put into practice. Will give you the easiest example. The terrorist had served 15 years in prison, was released under the «Shalit deal», and here again commits a terrorist act. This is a real case, a resident of Hebron was attacked with an axe on Israelis in Jerusalem. In such a blatant case, it is obvious that the family should be deported.
And that is from your point of view will strengthen the deterrent?
No doubt. Families fear deportation to Gaza, because they understand how the standard of living is lower there. You also need to deprive all the families of terrorists the right to enter Israel or to Jordan and to work in Israel. We must understand that the Palestinian authority has created terrorists around the halo of glory. You know that the terrorist who killed two Israelis on the street And Gai, the Palestinian bar Association posthumously awarded the title of honorary lawyer. To his house came Abbas and the entire top of the autonomy. And many of these cases.
On such proposals the representatives of the government responsible every time that it is necessary to strike a balance between active action and responsibility, resistance to pressure from the international community and so on. These explanations seem unconvincing?
I always remember the words of Churchill that there is nothing worse than half-measures. In this case, we see a classic example of a situation when half-measures are worse than inaction. I have repeatedly said, including in an interview with NEWSru.co.il, before the start of operation protective edge, Netanyahu said: «If you’re not going to go to the end, then do not start. If you are starting – go to the end.»
In other words, what the government does is half-measures.
Absolutely. And you can’t lay all the blame on international pressure, especially now, after the terrorist attacks in France, amid the coalition against the «Islamic state» in Syria and Iraq, in the face of Russia’s actions against terrorists.
How does this relate to our situation?
Who will claim to us for action against the terrorists? France declared a state of emergency for a period of three months after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Left the government, left the Parliament in France voted for the introduction of these draconian measures for a period of three months. I don’t think today someone was very excited about tough anti-terrorism steps. Maybe except Sweden, which was always expertly made political and financial capital on any bloodshed.
We will return to Sweden, while about Israel. You brought a set of measures that would cost to do. But being in the opposition, you can only call to give an interview. Maybe your place is where I make decisions, I have in the government?
If the government was ready to implement these steps…
Not all of them. Part.
At least part of it. To date, the government is not ready to accept neither my proposal on this occasion. But you can return to the beginning, and remember why we are not in government. We were asked to make to the basic principles of the government four points: the overthrow of Hamas in Gaza, the death penalty for terrorists, the resumption of construction in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem is not in RAS al-Amud, construction in the large settlement blocs: Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev. Let’s not build in Nokdim, but in blocks Yes. Netanyahu refused to accept our conditions.
Why? How do you understand it?
This government is driven by a single principle: to survive at any cost.
You mean political survival?
Yes, of course.
Let’s say it is. But how does the acceptance of your proposals, in whole or in part, affect the coalition?
It may well be that Kahlon or anyone else would oppose. Perhaps Netanyahu didn’t want to fight. In fact so much so, that instead of the court over the terrorists we judge the policeman who killed the terrorist in Jerusalem.
It is not yet judged.
Don’t judge. He is questioned by the MAHASH. It’s completely idiotic. It’s still what to take and bind the hands of those who, risking their lives, is at the forefront of the fight against terror. And I have not heard from Netanyahu even a single word of criticism or condemnation about it. Our initiatives are cut down at the root. I’m not talking about the death penalty law for terrorists. We have put forward a bill that talked about the fact that the decisions of the Central election Commission (banning the participation of parties in elections – approx.ed.) would be final and cannot be appealed in the high court of appeals.
Within your struggle with Hanin Zuabi?
With Hanin Zuabi, BALAD. Netanyahu was the first who spoke out against this law. I don’t understand this logic. Came to the anecdotal situation where the inter-Ministerial Commission on legislation Yariv Levin, he, with foam at the mouth, began to say that it is unacceptable to encroach on the powers of the high court of appeals.
Exactly. (laughs) He talked about the fact that Likud could not support such anti-democratic law. I pulled quotes from interviews Levin’s site «Be hadrei haredim», where he falls on the high court of appeals. Here you have the answer why are we not in a coalition, despite the fact that we are approached almost every day.
Have something to say in this regard?
We don’t want in this case to change their principles for Ministerial seats. We have talked so far only about one component. There are a few. Cancelled everything that we held in the last Knesset. Take for instance the area of religion and state. We had a law of Judaism, according to which the rabbis of the cities will be able to convert. All within the framework of Halacha, no one offers to give everyone a paper about Judaism. But this government has cancelled.
You understand why, right?
I understand. But this is just an example of why we are not in the coalition. There are problems connected with the law on conscription, there are problems connected with the subject of Judaism, and there are of course problems associated with the needs of the community of immigrants from the former USSR. Upon approval of the budget revealed that there is a balance of 23 billion shekels.
Explain that those who do not understand what it is about.
From 1 January there was no budget and the government functioned on the principle of 1/12. When the budget is finally adopted, it was discovered that there is a balance of 23 billion. This is after us Kahlon argued that there is 1.4 billion required for pension for new immigrants. Moreover, on December 15 held a meeting of the Finance Committee of the Knesset, which discussed the transfer of money between budget lines. 81 million shekels was transferred to education. Now internal distribution: 320 thousand for a conventional system, some national-religious schools, and the rest of the ultra-Orthodox.
And we return to the question about the difference between being in the coalition and the opposition. You get there, and not here.
When we were in coalition, we didn’t get anything, they had to pull out. At this meeting of the Finance Committee of deputies from the coalition Smotrich of «Byte Yehudi» and Rachel Azariah of «Kulan» so intense that nothing translate failed except one topic – the 300 million to the Ministry of absorption. Why? Because it was supported by NDI. That is, we have a rational, adequate policy of not becoming rabid opposition.
And there is the chance of your joining the coalition?
We are working on three topics: Aliya and absorption, safety, religion and the state. None of these topics are the government not prepared to meet our requirements.
Back to foreign policy. You have long been the Minister of foreign Affairs, are well aware of this matter. U.S. Secretary of state John Kerry has twice recently expressed harsh criticism of Israel, the Swedish foreign Minister said that Europe begins the marking of goods made in Judea and Samaria. This is starting to resemble a snowball.
As for Kerry, he unquestionably has a lot of personal complaints. I was in Washington right now on the forum of the Saban. There were Kerry, Clinton, and many others. It is difficult to understand who is right and who is wrong, but from what I heard from the representatives of the United States, the case was as follows. During the last visit of Netanyahu to Washington and his meeting with Obama, the Prime Minister agreed to a package of «goodwill gestures» to the Palestinians. If you remember, they talked even about a unilateral withdrawal, against which I spoke out. Be that as it may, according to the Americans, Netanyahu and Obama agreed that the details will be discussed during Kerry’s visit to the region. And when Kerry arrived, it became clear that no package and no any «goodwill gestures» too.
How can this be?
I do not know. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding, perhaps something else. Netanyahu tried very hard to create a positive atmosphere at the meeting with Obama, as it was about compensation for an agreement with Iran. The Americans were ready for a very generous package of both financial and technological. I don’t know what was said, and who realized, but from the presentations I realized that Kerry left the middle East in a rage.
This will have consequences?
I think so. First of all, the American «umbrella» which we had in the UN security Council, will «leaky». That is, the support enjoyed by Israel, stopped profit automatic. In addition, it can be assumed that the package of compensation for an agreement with Iran will be much more modest.
From your point of view, there is a real danger of nominating a serious anti-Israel initiatives?
There are two such initiatives: the French and new Zealand. They hang over us like the sword of Damocles, and the Americans won’t let him down. How long this will last, I don’t know, but the tone of Kerry, by the tone of several others with whom I spoke behind the scenes in Washington, it is clear that support for Israel will no longer be so automatic, as has been since the creation of the state.
This is an irreversible process or situation can be corrected, if for example to power through the Republicans?
In America very much depends on the line selected by the President, including in international politics. Now it is unknown what the foreign policy concept will be in the next administration. However, it is clear that they are tired of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and that they are more relevant now the threat of terror by Islamic state, what is happening in Ukraine, relations between Russia and Turkey. Their agenda is quite full.
Speaking of Turkey. In recent days, Erdogan has presented the conditions to normalize relations with Israel, expressed interest in this.
Such twists in foreign policy should be done very carefully. In this case: measure twice and cut once. We must not only respond to the conditions of Turkey, but also consider their.
Conditions of Turkey can be discussed?
As to the lifting of the blockade of Gaza, this requirement, called non-starter, nothing to talk about. But I want to go back to our conditions. First of all, the closure of the operational headquarters of Hamas, which is in Istanbul. There develop and prepare acts of terrorism against Israelis. There has been developed an operation on the abduction of the three youths in gush Etzion and the murder. From there he entered the order. This headquarters is under the protection of Turkish intelligence services and in close contact with them. The headquarters should be closed. As for compensation, their pay should be preceded by the adoption of a law that would make it impossible for any action against soldiers and officers who participated in operations on «Mavi Marmara». And third is, of course, the termination of such extreme anti-Israel propaganda, hysteria and incitement.
It should also be understood that Turkey is in a very difficult situation. The U.S. administration confirmed that Turkey buys oil from Islamic state at an extremely low price, about 10 dollars per barrel, and sells it on the market. Secondly, a Turkish invasion of Iraq. The last meeting of the security Council for Turkey were very unpleasant. And third, the tensions with Russia. All of this should be taken into account, as well as the fact that in case of normalization of relations with Turkey all tried and tested in recent years in relations with Greece and Cyprus will go down the drain. Russia also is not happy. And when all is weighed, it becomes obvious that the balance is negative and there is no reason to move in this direction. Cannot be be political opportunists and to be guided solely by short-term interests.
The settlement with Turkey is a momentary interest?
Deep settlement with Turkey is impossible. Erdogan, with his Islamist ideology will never accept this.
Looking back on five years ago, you can say you did everything right against Turkey or regret about something?
Everything was done absolutely right.
The Swedish foreign Minister stated that «Israel is committing executions of Palestinians». From your point of view, Israel has reacted correctly to these words?
I think so. It is important to understand that Sweden had not changed its approach to foreign policy since the end of world war II. Throughout the war they supplied the Wehrmacht’s steel and iron at extremely high prices. They perfectly understood that this steel and iron are to the needs of the German army, not the production of tractors. They also understood that gold, which they pay, seized from Jews and other peoples caught in the power of Germany. The Swedes all knew it and felt no remorse. In the same way they behave today.
That is, the pursuit of their interests.
Yes, and it is absolutely cynical, corrupt, and devoid of conscience.
Likewise for Europe, marking products manufactured in the settlements?
Europe lives in constant terror, since the introduction of the oil embargo in 1973. Now Europe is in recession and economic looking for exits, looking for markets and so on. Sweden used the recognition of a Palestinian state unilaterally, to immediately take the bribe from the Arab and Muslim world: support for the status of non-permanent member of the UN security Council. On the other hand, the Muslim world is one and a half billion people, 70% of energy on the planet. I’m not talking about the influence of Muslims on domestic elections.
You talk about interests. We have to oppose them?
We can do a lot. Unfortunately, the main thing is not done. When I was in the USA, participated in the debate with Yitzhak Herzog, in which the leading role played a well-known journalist Jeffrey Goldberg. For those who don’t know: Goldberg senior journalist of the most liberal publications in the U.S. The Atlantic. Roughly speaking, the fact that Obama’s on your mind – Goldberg on the feather. And so he said to me: «your settlement policy and relations to Judea and Samaria, the solidarity of young Jews to Israel falls, aren’t you scared?» I replied that I am not afraid and it’s not in the settlements. The problem is that American Jews no longer Jewish, Zionist education. Less than 10% of the Jewish children in the U.S. receive this education. The next generation will not be Jewish. «This is not politics, it’s not settlement, it’s the failure of your leaders of the Jewish community and our Jewish state. And until you understand that solidarity with Israel is falling not because of politics but because of the lack of Jewish education, you will be going on the wrong track».
One of the main topics on your agenda are the problems of the Russian-speaking community. What has been achieved from the opposition?
We are the only party for which the Russian-speaking community and its interests are paramount. No party, no seats do not position themselves. Look at the recent budget debate. If at least one of the three Russian-speaking deputies of the coalition (Elkin, Edelstein, Plaskow – approx. ed.) said that the budget will not get support unless we solve the problem of pensions, the budget would not exist. But no one did.
You asked what we could achieve from opposition? Two examples. First, as I said, transfer money between budget lines. Nothing was transferred because of the scandal between the canyon and Rachel Azariah. Only at the Ministry money had been transferred because of us and our support. Second example: try to close the project the army giyur «Nativ». I picked up about a big scandal at the Commission meeting of the Knesset Aliya and absorption, and when there was no choice, Elkin transferred the money, and the project was saved. So every day we do something. And all the work in the committees, all legislation aimed at making the absorption a more friendly, smoother.
Unfortunately, we are on the verge of losing six million Jews, and if the situation in the sphere of absorption will not change, there will be aliyah.
You made a forecast according to which elections to the 21st Knesset convocation will be held next year. A similar assessment is expressed by some other policy.
My opinion has not changed since our previous conversation.
When there will be elections, from your point of view?
In the middle of next year.
This means that the government is about to collapse?
We’ll have to see.
And yet, how do you see the scenario of the collapse of the government? The coalition held a budget, the main danger had passed.
Something that everyone will try to Rob the cash register to the detriment of General interests, was evident from the start. But let’s see what will happen next. The scandal between the canyon and Rachel Azariah at the meeting of the Finance Committee of the Knesset was only the beginning. Almost does not take part in voting a favorite of the Israeli media Oren Hazan. He was deprived of three months the right to participate in the work of commissions, and suspended from participation in the plenary meetings, and he decided that he will not participate in voting. There is brewing some more serious conflicts, and sooner or later everything will explode.
Previously, you defined your purpose, the Ministry of defence.
This goal remained unchanged.
The Minister of defence most closely works with the Prime Minister. I’m not asking personally, because you do not respond, but try to describe: this Premier?
As I have repeatedly said, nothing personal there. We are talking about the possibility of joint work that is assigned to the coalition agreements, the basic principles of the government. If we find a common denominator, will have the opportunity to cooperate.
What should be the common denominator?
For example, the destruction of the Hamas regime in Gaza.
Let me remind you that this once was written down in the coalition agreements.
But that was before I was defence Minister, unfortunately, and Barack of course all torpedoed. There are several themes that I would not like to discuss in the press. But in General, the concept must be one that aptly expressed at the time, Jabotinsky. The «iron wall». We must clearly and publicly delineate a map of their interests and any attempt provocations or attacks on our interests, the answer should be such that the second time to climb not wanted.
So, elections in the middle of next year. What is your goal from the point of view of mandates?
The minimum goal is to double our representation in the Knesset, that is, to bring it to 12. But I think we can count on more. Anyway, I’m calm.
Interviewed Gabby Wolfson