Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Israeli Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party, is seen at his office in Jerusalem, Wednesday, March 22, 2006. (AP) | more
...Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Israeli Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party, is seen at his office in Jerusalem, Wednesday, March 22, 2006. (AP)
, calling for removal of "Arab triangle" from Israel, climbs in polls
"Our target is to create a Jewish state and provide security," Lieberman
said in an interview Friday at his
Jerusalem campaign office, decorated with photographs of himself lifting weights and dressed as a Roman gladiator.
"With so big a minority, more than 20 percent of Israeli Arabs, it's impossible to continue as a Jewish state," he
said. Lieberman is the first leader of a high-profile party to espouse a population swap, though a Labor Party legislator and a former Netanyahu security adviser have raised the idea in the past.
Israeli human rights activists and Arab politicians denounced Lieberman's agenda as racist. "Mr. Lieberman, who just came from Russia, and the people behind him who don't know Hebrew as well as I do, cannot suddenly dictate to us our citizenship and the solution of the Palestinian issue according to their racist mood," said Azmi Bishara, an Israeli Arab legislator who holds a doctorate in philosophy.
, who lives in the Nokdim settlement likely marked for removal under Olmert's plan, has not ruled out joining an Olmert-led government, but has said he
would not agree to further unilateral pullbacks.
In 2004, Sharon
Cabinet because he
opposed Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.The pullout went ahead, as planned, the following year.
About 40 percent of Israelis of Russian origin are expected to vote for Lieberman
, said Smith, the pollster.
immigrated to Israel in 1979 and first rose to prominence as the engineer of Netanyahu's razor-thin 1996 election victory over elder statesman Shimon Peres, and later as Netanyahu's chief of staff.
was dubbed "the nation's CEO" because of his
central role in most key affairs of government. Lieberman
quit in 1997 over an internal dispute in Likud.He was elected to Israel's parliament in 1999 on the Israel Beitenu slate, and later joined Sharon's Cabinet.