Some Things You May Want to Know About Avigdor Lieberman

Melanie Fineman
on May 20, 2016

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Earlier this week, Prime Minister Netanyahu made waves when he announced that leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteynu Party, Avigdor Lieberman, was set to become the new defense minister. Lieberman is a right-wing firebrand, and has said some truly awful things during his career in Israeli politics.

In advance of Lieberman’s new role in the Netanyahu government, here are some of his more outrageous comments:

  • At a rally ahead of the elections in February 2015, Lieberman declared that “those [Arabs] who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an ax.”
  • Lieberman’s racism extends to how he interacts with others in the government. He called fellow Knesset Member and head of the Joint List Ayman Odeh “a liar and a traitor.” Lieberman also accused Odeh of “representing terror groups,” telling him: “you’re not wanted here.”
  • He wants to force some of the Israeli-Arab towns within the Green Line to become part of a future Palestinian state, even if they want to remain in Israel. And he continues to defend this controversial population transfer plan.
  • In November 2006, Lieberman called on Israel to “emulate Russia’s treatment of Chechnya” when it comes to relations with Gaza. Translation: Use brutal tactics and torture.
  • In July 2003, Lieberman said that Palestinian prisoners released by Israel should be taken to a place “whence they will not return.” Lieberman said that “place” is the Dead Sea, where the prisoners would be drowned. He offered to provide the buses to take them there. Straight out of a horror film, and straight up horrific.
  • Lieberman has spent much of his political career advocating for a “loyalty oath” that non-Jews in Israel would be required to sign to keep their Israeli citizenship. Unsurprisingly, it’s been criticized as being “provocative and racist.”
  • In 2008, he also refused to blame Jewish settlers for a series of attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, and instead peddled the theory that Shin Bet undercover agents were the perpetrators.
  • Lieberman has a longstanding contempt for minorities. In 2006, he declared that “Minorities are the biggest problem in the world.”

(Credit to Americans for Peace Now and Foreign Policy Magazine for their assistance in finding these pieces.)

And here’s some further reading on the subject:

Melanie Fineman is a Digital Assistant at J Street. She’s on Twitter at @mnfineman.