I’ve been traveling, so I’m slow to blog about these developments, but it’s important to note in this space Israeli Foreign Minister (and settler) Avigdor Lieberman’s endorsement at the UN of a “population exchange” to accompany the creation of a Palestinian state. Here are the key paragraphs from his speech to the General Assembly:
Thus, the guiding principle for a final status agreement must not be land-for-peace but rather, exchange of populated territory. Let me be very clear: I am not speaking about moving populations, but rather about moving borders to better reflect demographic realities.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is not an extraordinary insight, and is far less controversial than some may seek to claim. In fact, precisely this notion – that a mismatch between borders and nationalities is a recipe for conflict – has long been accepted as a virtual truism in the academic community.
Leading scholars and highly respected research institutions have even coined the term “Right-Sizing the State” to capture the idea that states and nations must be in balance in order to ensure peace. This is not a controversial political policy. It is an empirical truth.
Netanyahu of course immediately distanced himself from Lieberman’s remarks, as if he were not the foreign minister in his government. This raises the question of why Lieberman, who is usually sequestered away from important diplomacy, was sent to speak at the UN in the first place. Tony Karon suggests that the play here was to “make Bibi’s hardline seem reasonable” by comparison.
The other remarkable thing about Lieberman’s position on this issue is that ideologically more in common with Tzipi Livni and those in the Israeli political “center” who want to maintain a jewish majority no matter the cost.
This further underscores the revelation in Noam Sheizaf’s reporting on Israeli right-wingers who support the one state solution: the important dividing line in Israeli politics may not be between “left” and “right” as defined in the Knesset, but between those who support equal rights for Palestinians and those who don’t, between those who favor partition and those willing to contemplate other scenarios.