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Yisrael Beiteinu
ישראל ביתנו
Leader Avigdor Lieberman
Founded 1999
Headquarters Jerusalem
Ideology Nationalism,[1]
Pseudo-secularism,[2][3]
Economic liberalism,[4][5]
Russian-speakers' interest,[6]
Revisionist Zionism[7]
Alliance National Union (2000-2006)
Most MKs 15 (2009-)
Fewest MKs 4 (2003-2006)
Current MKs 15
Election symbol
ל
Website
www.beytenu.org
Politics of Israel
Political parties
Elections

Yisrael Beiteinu (Hebrew: ישראל ביתנו‎, lit. Israel is Our Home) is a nationalist political party in Israel. The party describes itself as "a national movement with the clear vision to follow in the brave path of Zev Jabotinsky",[8] the founder of Revisionist Zionism. The party traditionally represents immigrants from the former Soviet Union,[9] but has been making efforts to expand its appeal to a more veteran Israeli public.[10] It takes a hard line towards the peace process and Israeli Arabs, characterized by its 2009 election slogan "No loyalty, no citizenship".[11] Its main platform involves the creation of a Palestinian state that would include the exchange of largely Arab-inhabited parts of Israel for largely Jewish-inhabited parts of the West Bank.[12] The party maintains an anti-clerical mantle and encourages socio-economic opportunities for new immigrants, in conjunction with efforts to increase Jewish immigration. In the elections the party won 15 seats, its most to date, making it the third largest party in the Knesset.[13]

Contents

History

Yisrael Beiteinu was formed by Avigdor Lieberman to create a platform for Russian immigrants who support a hard line in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Lieberman's actions were motivated by the concessions granted by his former boss, Benjamin Netanyahu (when he was director-general of the Likud) to the Palestinian Authority in the 1997 Wye River Memorandum, featuring the division of the West Bank city of Hebron. One of the partners in Netanyahu's coalition was Yisrael BaAliyah, a new immigrants' list led by Natan Sharansky that also had right-of-center leanings. After Lieberman left Likud, he registered great disappointment when Sharansky did not pull out of the coalition, as did two of Sharansky's colleagues in Yisrael BaAliyah, Michael Nudelman and Yuri Stern, both of whom broke away to form Aliyah.

For the 1999 elections, Lieberman, Nudelman and Stern formed Yisrael Beiteinu, and the new party won four seats. On 1 February 2000 the party joined an alliace with the National Union,[14] itself an alliance of right-wing parties led by Binyamin Elon. In the 2003 elections the joint list won seven seats, with Yisrael Beiteinu being given four of them. The alliance joined Ariel Sharon's government and Lieberman was made Minister of Transport. However, the party left the government on 6 June 2004,[15] in response to the disengagement plan. On 1 February 2006, shortly before the elections that year, the party split from National Union in order to run alone in the elections.[14]

The election results saw the party increase in strength to eleven seats. Although it remained outside Ehud Olmert's government formed in May 2006, it joined the coalition in October 2006. The party was involved in a controversy in January 2007 after Labor Party leader Amir Peretz nominated Raleb Majadele for the position of Minister of Science and Technology, thereby making him Israel's first Muslim Arab minister.[16] Lieberman condemned the nomination and called for Peretz's resignation, accusing him of harming Israel's security by ceding to "internal rivalries" within the Labour party, whilst Peretz accused Yisrael Beiteinu of being a racist party.[17] Yisrael Beiteinu's member of Knesset (MK) Esterina Tartman referred to Peretz's decision as a "lethal blow to Zionism," adding that Majadale's presence in the cabinet would damage "Israel's character as a Jewish state"[16] and that "We need to destroy this affliction from within ourselves. God willing, God will come to our help." Tartman's comments were immediately condemned as racist by other MKs.[18]

In January 2008 the party left the government in protest against talks with the Palestinian National Authority, saying certain issues negotiated were not to be tolerated.[19] Lieberman pulled out of the government and left his position as Minister of Strategic Affairs, and almost immediately afterwards, Arutz Sheva reported that an investigation against Lieberman and his daughter that had been "ongoing for years, suddenly became active again once he left the government last week."[20]

On 22 December 2008, Lieberman approved the party's list for the 2009 elections. New names in the top ten include Orly Levy (daughter of former Likud MK David Levy) and Anastasia Michaeli, two former models and current television hosts. Knesset members Yosef Shagal and Tartman failed to make the list.[21] The results of the election saw the party win 15 seats, making it the third largest after Kadima (28) and Likud (27). In March 2009, Yisrael Beiteinu joined Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition and party leader Avigdor Lieberman became Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, whilst the party received four other ministerial portfolios, and one deputy minister post.

Ideology

Israeli Arabs and Palestinians

One of the party's best-known policies is that of redrawing the Green Line with the West Bank in such a way that areas with high Arab populations, such as the Triangle area and the Wadi Ara, both gained by Israel from Jordan as part of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, would be transferred to Arab sovereignty. Known as the Lieberman Plan, such an arrangement would mean that a third of the Arab citizens of Israel would lose Israeli citizenship.

Lieberman argues that the Arab residents see themselves not as Israelis but as Palestinians, and should therefore be encouraged to join the Palestinian Authority. He has been involved in widely-publicized offers of financial compensation in exchange for renouncing their citizenship and land. Lieberman has presented this proposal as part of a potential peace deal aimed at establishing two separate national entities, one for Israelis and the other for Palestinians. However, he is known to have an affinity for the Druze population (the only Arab population to be fully drafted into the IDF), and has attracted a number of Druze voters, including some in the Golan Heights who voted for the party in protest.[22] Druze candidate Hamad Amar was elected to the Knesset on the party's list in 2009.[23]

Regarding Palestinian statehood, Lieberman has said that he supports the creation of "a viable Palestinian state".[24]

Yisrael Beiteinu came to international public attention in May 2009, when it announced it would propose laws banning Israeli Arabs from marking the anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, with a jail term of up to three years for violators. Arabs mark Nakba Day on May 15 every year. The New York Times reports that the proposed ban was widely viewed as a violation of Israel's free speech laws. The draft bill was changed by ministers to bar public money being spent in recognition of Nakba Day.[25][26]

Other Policies

MK Lia Shemtov is known for her opposition to the Israeli welfare-to-work plan (known as the "Wisconsin Plan"), along with the rest of the party.

The party also supports increasing the police force, improving education, easing conversions and a secular marriage. [27] The last two points are particularly popular with the Russian imigrant community who vote heavily for the party. These items angered some of the religious parties such as Shas with Shas's Rabbi Ovadia Yossef claiming that "Whoever votes for Lieberman gives strength to Satan," and claims that the party is a danger to religious matters in Israel. [28]

Perception

A large number of mainstream media sources, within and outside of Israel, label the party, and Lieberman, as right wing and even far right or ultra nationalist.[29] At the same time however, the party does recognize a two-state solution and it claims it is secularist Party, with some of its particular religious policies described as "ultra liberal".[30] These positions are contradictory to the tradition of both nationalistic and religious right wing politics in Israel. Some have called the party and its leader a "hard-line" or "self-styled" populist.[31]

While various Arab and world media and politicians accused the party and its leader of being a fascist and racist,[32] a number of Israeli media and politicians tend to disagree,[33] and some even offered praise on occasion. For example, Kadima's Minister of Finance Roni Bar-On said "It's a Jewish party, Zionist and serious."[34] The party phenomenon was explained by Gershom Gorenberg:[35]

Lieberman is not a right-winger, because he’s talking about giving up land. In fact, he’s even willing to give up land from sovereign Israel. [..] I think one of the reasons people say Lieberman is in the center is that they don’t realize he has, in effect, redefined the terms.

In a February 2009 address considered to be directed at the Obama administration, Avigdor Lieberman stated that Yisrael Beiteinu was neither far-right, nor ultra-nationalist.[36]

Yehuda Ben-Meir wrote in the left-wing Haaretz that he did not and would not ever vote for Lieberman. He also criticized the delegitimizing and demonizing of both the right and the left:

Lieberman is neither a racist nor a fascist, and depicting him as such does an injustice to his voters and harm to Israel.
What's racist is denying the Jewish people a state of their own. Certain Arab Knesset members talk incessantly about the Palestinian people's rights, including their own state. But in the same breath they refuse to acknowledge Israel as the state of the Jewish people and deny the very existence of a Jewish people as a nation with national rights...
Just as we must condemn right wingers' attempts to cast doubt over the patriotism of Yossi Beilin and his fellow subscribers to the Geneva Initiative - provocative as this plan might be to most Israelis - we must condemn the left's lamentable habit of denigrating Lieberman. The idea to change the state's borders in a peace agreement may not be practical or implementable in our circumstances, but we cannot deny its legitimacy and sense. And in any case, it has nothing to do with racism. Lieberman has said publicly that he supports the principle of establishing a Palestinian state.[37]

According to Time.com, many Russian immigrants are attracted to the ideas of Lieberman's party. It also notes that analysts say that at this time "the dreary prospects for peace, and recent terrorist attacks inflicted by Israeli Arabs" have contributed to Lieberman's popularity among other segments of Israeli society.[38]

Criticism

Yisrael Beiteinu and its plan have many vehement critics from the left and the right in Israel.

Despite its support for increased Jewish immigration (aliyah) and settlement expansion, Yisrael Beiteinu's platform is based in part on the creation of a Palestinian state adjacent to Israel, and thus has alienated much of the religious right-wing settlement movement which refuses to acknowledge Palestinian claims to any of the 'Land of Israel.'

The Lieberman Plan caused a stir among Arab citizens of Israel, which explicitly treats them as a 'fifth column' and as an enemy within. With few exceptions, Arabs in Israel argue that they have lived in the region for centuries, and should not have to renounce the villages and cities in which they, their parents, and their grandparents were born. Others insist that as Israeli citizens, they deserve equal rights within the State, and should not be singled out according to their ethnic or religious background. Various polls show that Arabs in Israel in general do not wish to move to the West Bank or Gaza if a Palestinian state were created there.[39]

Organisation

Yisrael Beiteinu runs for local elections under the name of the city that they run in, e.g. Petah Tikva Beiteinu ("Petah Tikva Our Home"). While the party as a whole does not advocate the separation of religion and state, the local chapters generally push for measures that the religious public opposes, such as public transportation on Saturdays and the ability to sell pork (which is treif and haraam) in general stores.

Knesset members

YB party ballot 2009

The party currently has 15 Knesset members.

  1. Avigdor Lieberman
  2. Uzi Landau
  3. Stas Misezhnikov
  4. Yitzhak Aharonovich
  5. Sofa Landver
  6. Orly Levy
  7. Danny Ayalon
  8. David Rotem
  9. Anastasia Michaeli
  10. Faina Kirschenbaum
  11. Robert Ilatov
  12. Hamad Amar
  13. Moshe Mutz Matlon
  14. Lia Shemtov
  15. Alex Miller

References

  1. ^ A nationalist list, made up of new immigrants and old-timers and headed by MK Avigdor Lieberman, that ran in the elections for the Fifteenth Knesset
  2. ^ Lenience within the Halakha (religious law)
  3. ^ "Regarding religious issues in Israel, the party does not call for the separation of religion and state."
  4. ^ http://www.yisraelbeytenu.com/#raising
  5. ^ "Yisrael Beiteinu supports the advancement of free-market economic policies"
  6. ^ Israel: Background and Relations with the United States
  7. ^ http://www.yisraelbeytenu.com/#bringing
  8. ^ Bringing the Zionist Dream to Life Party website
  9. ^ untitled
  10. ^ Singer Arik Sinai joins Yisrael Beiteinu
  11. ^ Lieberman now throwing his 'no loyalty, no citizenship' motto at Shas - Haaretz - Israel News
  12. ^ Background: Beyond Israel Beiteinu's campaign slogans
  13. ^ Final election results: Kadima 28 seats, Likud 27, Yisrael Beiteinu 15
  14. ^ a b Mergers and Splits Among Parliamentary Groups Knesset website
  15. ^ Sixteenth Knesset: Government 30 Knesset website
  16. ^ a b Lieberman calls on Peretz to quit over appointment of first Arab minister Haaretz, 12 January 2007
  17. ^ Peretz: Israel Beiteinu 'racist party' Jerusalem Post, 16 January 2007
  18. ^ Israel names first Arab minister BBC News, 12 January 2007
  19. ^ Lieberman blasts Arab MKs, pulls party out of government Haaretz, 16 January 2008
  20. ^ Exposé Links Olmert, Lieberman and Sharon to Jericho Casino Israel National News, 24 January 2008
  21. ^ Branovsky, Yael (2008-12-22). "Lieberman to approve Yisrael Beiteinu roster". Ynetnews. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3642639,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-23.  
  22. ^ Druze in Golan vote Lieberman out of 'protest' Yedioth Ahronoth, 12 February 2009
  23. ^ Meet Hamad Amar, Yisrael Beiteinu's Druze candidate Haaretz, 9 February 2009
  24. ^ Lieberman: I support creation of viable Palestinian state Haaretz, 27 February 2009
  25. ^ "Lieberman's party proposes ban on Arab Nakba". Haaretz. 2009-05-15. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=1085588.  
  26. ^ Bronner, Ethan. 6 Die as Palestinian Authority Forces Clash With Hamas , The New York Times, May 31, 2009.
  27. ^ The party's platform http://www.beytenu.org/107/2193/article.html
  28. ^ Shas' Rabbi Yosef: Voting for Lieberman gives strength to Satan http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1062315.html
  29. ^ Israel apologizes for lawmaker's Mubarak comments Fox News 29 October 2008
  30. ^ NEWS: Livni demands rotating prime ministerial post; Lieberman wants defense or foreign United for Peace
  31. ^ Jews and Arabs can never live together, says Israel's vice PM The Telegraph
  32. ^ Olmert, Lieberman sign coalition deal The Jerusalem Post, 22 October 2006
  33. ^ 'Lieberman isn't racist, Hamas is' The Jerusalem Post, 11 February 2009
  34. ^ Olmert may include ultra-nationalist party in coalition Gulf News, 5 April 2006
  35. ^ "Israel Is Our Home The Atlantic, 14 March 2007
  36. ^ Benhorin, Yitzhak (February 26, 2009). "Lieberman: I Back the Creation of Palestinian State". Ynetnews. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3678374,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-27.  
  37. ^ Yehuda Ben-Meir (2009-04-26). "Lieberman is no racist". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1081038.html.  
  38. ^ Israel's Kingmaker
  39. ^ Israeli Arabs and the Vote International Herald Tribune, 24 March 2006

External links


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