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Michel Warschawski of the Alternative Information Center says Netanyahu’s decision to appoint Avigdor Lieberman is a concession to far-right and religious pressure

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SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has just offered Avigdor Lieberman the position of Defense Minister. Lieberman is known for his hawkish tendencies ranging from supporting the bombing of Aswan Dam in Egypt, to calling for the beheading for Palestinian citizens of Israel who are disloyal. The appointment is still subject to coalition negotiations. An opinion column headline summed it all up in the Haaretz by Gideon Levy which read, With Lieberman as Defense Minister Israel Should Head for the Bomb Shelters. Joining us now to discuss the appointment is Michel Warschawski. He is a journalist writer and founder of the alternative information center in Israel. His books include On the Boarder and Towards an Open Tomb: The Crisis of Israeli Society. Thank you so much for joining us Michel. MICHEL WARSCHAWSKI: Good evening. PERIES: So Michel. let me begin with giving you an opportunity to give us Lieberman’s history and why Netanyahu has chosen him as Defense Minister. WARSCHAWSKI: The personal history or Avigdor Lieberman is a history of a fascist starting being already a student leader at the Hebrew University, eager to hit Palestinians into organize riots. Then as a Prime Minister in the general director’s office where he used to advise [ ] Netanyahu to take more and more and more brutal measures especially against Palestinians inside Israel but including even [ ] or crazy measures like killing the leaders of Hamas or bombing Aswan in [ ]. He is a person that has no limit whatsoever. Even Benny Begin, a parliament member from the Party of Netanyahu, Benny Begin and the son of Menachem Begin, right wing ideologies said yesterday, if it is true, it is a nightmare. PERIES: Now I guess for all the things that trouble people about his appointment, his views on Palestinians is perhaps the most alarming. Tell us about his views on Palestinians and how he would fair in terms of addressing the peace talks for example. WARSCHAWSKI: His political position concerning the negotiation, eventually it’s a negotiation with the Palestinians, I would say more broadly, how to deal with the Palestinian issue is not very different from the position of Netanyahu. The big difference between Lieberman and Netanyahu is that Lieberman doesn’t care about the public image of Israel. Netanyahu has been using a double language, has been speaking about two state solution while never intending to implement it. Netanyahu had to take into account the American [ ] position, international community, international public opinion. Avigdor Lieberman says we don’t care about all that, we have to make our own decisions according to our own values and principles and the world will have no other choice but to follow us even if the world is unhappy.  PERIES: Now their policy toward Palestinians may be similar but they’ve had a contiguous past, the two of them Netanyahu and Lieberman. Tell us a little bit more about that. WARSCHAWSKI: It depends. When Lieberman and Netanyahu were in the same government they succeeded to collaborate quite well. It is only when Lieberman left the government that he start opening his mouth and we had a whole festival of mutual accusation which has very few to do with politics and much more to do with the zoo.  PERIES: Give us a sense of what’s at stake here in terms of what’s going on in the political climate in Israel that Netanyahu is responding with Lieberman as a Defense Minister. WARSCHAWSKI: I don’t think that Netanyahu’s majority is threatened. I think he has a stable majority or let’s say he doesn’t have any substantial opposition. The Labor party led by Isaac Herzog is even worse than a joke. It is committing real suicide. In fact, Herzog didn’t understand that while negotiating with Netanyahu he’s participation to the right wing government, in fact he was only a tool to lower the price to be paid by Netanyahu to Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu has one fear. It’s a fear of the other right wing parties. He feels threatened by Naftali Bennett party, the Minister of Education from the Religious National Services party. In order to balance the threat of Bennett he was obliged to make this alliance at a very high price with Lieberman. Because providing the Ministry of Defense to Lieberman, making him number 2 in the government is paving the way for Lieberman to be number 1. PERIES: Finally Michel what is the message that this sends out to the region. Particularly with Iran and the crisis in Syria going on right now and the immediate boarder countries that Israel shares? WARSCHAWSKI: There is a double message to the region. The first message is don’t continue to bother us to the region but also to the big powers. Don’t try to put on the agenda any kind of peace process, international conference like the French are initiating right now, we are not part of this game. If you were not sure until now, now with Lieberman as Minister of Defense, you should understand. The second is part of real tension between Netanyahu and his government on the one hand and the army and more generally the [security of ] which in Israel and like any other country of the world are much more politically oriented, much more clever politically than the politicians. The intelligence in Israel, the cleverness has always been among the [security of ] [ ], [ ], and the army. And they warn since a long time that it must change course. Putting Avigdor Lieberman at the head of the Minister of Defense, the intention of Netanyahu, and the declared position of Lieberman is to control more the army high officers and to warn them that they shouldn’t interfere in the political field. I already think that the present chief of staff and the deputy chief of staff can prepare their files in order to go home. PERIES: Alright Michel Warchawski, I thank you so much for joining us on such last minute notice. WARSCHAWSKI: You’re welcome. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Michel Warschawski is a journalist and writer and a founder of the Alternative Information Center (AIC) in Israel. His books include On the Border and Towards an Open Tomb: The Crisis of Israeli Society.