(JTA) – Responding to Palestinian condemnations of Avigdor Liberman’s appointment as Israel’s defense minister, an unnamed Israeli official said the government will continue to support the two-state solution.
“If a coalition is formed, it’s important to note that both [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Liberman support a solution based on two states for two peoples,” the official told the Times of Israel on Thursday. “In fact, it has historically been right-wing governments, like that of Menachem Begin, which achieved peace with our Arab neighbours like Egypt.”
The announcement on Wednesday that the hawkish Liberman and his right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party were joining the governing coalition prompted Palestinian outrage, with the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry saying it “confirms the lack of a peace partner in Israel.”
“The inclusion of Liberman, known for his extreme right-wing stance toward the Palestinians, is new evidence that Netanyahu, as usual, has preferred to promote extremism in his government, which has become, as described by the Hebrew media, the most extreme government in Israel’s history,” the ministry said in a statement.
An unnamed Palestinian official told the Times of Israel that Liberman as defense minister will be a “disaster” for the Palestinians.
Liberman, who served as foreign minister from 2009 to 2015, is known for his extreme views on Israel’s Arab citizens, such as suggesting they be required to take a loyalty oath and proposing transferring some of them to a future Palestinian state. He also has called for imposing the death penalty on Palestinian terrorists, something the Times of Israel reported is believed to be one of his demands in joining Netanyahu’s coalition.