One of Israel’s most controversial politicians, former deputy prime minister Avigdor Lieberman, has been invited to London next month by Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael and the Israel Business Club, in an attempt to spark debate that will assist fundraising.
“Many of the members of the Israeli and the Jewish community in London, who are likely to donate money, do actually agree with Lieberman’s opinions,” said Dubi Bergman, KKL’s representative in London.
The comments of the Russian-born Knesset member, now head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, such as his idea to transfer to the Palestinian territories Israeli Arabs who do not feel a connection with Israel, to give them a “loyalty test”, and a remark about Arab MKs being “collaborators”, have turned him into a controversial figure.
But Mr Bergman said: “The goal of this visit is to bring influential Israeli and British people together and to let Mr Lieberman tell them about Israel’s political and security condition today and the solutions as he sees them.
“We hope his visit will bring a fruitful debate. It’s easy to bring someone that everyone agrees with. Personally, I would like to bring [Arab MK] Ahmed Tibi here some day.
“I don’t agree with his opinions, but I enjoy listening to him.”
Mr Lieberman is due in London for a three-day visit between June 19 and 22. Malka Leon, director of the IBC in London, said: “We try to bring a variety of Israeli figures to speak. This way we can hear the extreme right- and left-wing politicians, academics, artists and opinion-makers.
“In the past, we hosted in London [Defence Minister] Ehud Barak, Prof Uzi Arad from the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya, [former Education Minister, MK] Limor Livnat, and more than a decade ago we had a representative of the PLO in London.”
Mr Lieberman openly declares that yielding territories for peace has failed.
He resigned from Ariel Sharon’s government before the Gaza disengagement in 2005, and opposes the suggestion that Israel might give the Golan Heights to the Syrians in exchange for peace. Instead, he strongly backs the idea of exchanging settled territories in an attempt to reach regional peace.
A few months after the second Lebanon war, Mr Lieberman and his party joined Ehud Olmert’s government, explaining at the time that the IDF and the Israeli government needed to be strengthened by political unity.
But this January, he pulled Yisrael Beiteinu, the fourth-largest party in the Knesset, from the government. This time he objected to preliminary negotiations with the Palestinians on the core issues of Jerusalem, the “right of return” and the permanent borders of Israel and a Palestinian state.