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Knesset reels after defense minister compares Arab members to Nazis

Israel's Joint List will convene this week to decide whether to lodge a police complaint against Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman for comparing Arab lawmakers to Nazis.
Israel's new Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, head of far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, reviews an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun - RTX2EXRI
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Israelis are well aware of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman's view of the country’s Arab citizens, particularly their elected Knesset representatives. Prior to the 2015 elections, Liberman, chairman of Yisrael Beitenu, pushed through a bill raising the electoral threshold in an effort to keep the Arab parties out of the Knesset. In doing so, he prompted the small Arab parties to unite in order to avoid exclusion. As a result, the Joint List was able to win 13 Knesset seats in the 2015 elections, becoming the third largest faction in the 120-seat legislature.

In recent years, Liberman has consistently called for the transfer of Israel’s Arab citizens, who make up 20% of the population, to a future Palestinian state to be established by an agreement between the sides. This population swap idea even became his party’s slogan in the last election campaign: “Ariel for Israel, Umm al-Fahm for Palestine,” a reference to the Israeli West Bank settlement town of Ariel and the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.

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