Avigdor Liberman: National unity more important than land

Avigdor Liberman speaking during a Knesset meeting about Operation Protective Edge, Aug. 4, 2014. (Flash 90)

Avigdor Liberman speaking during a Knesset meeting about Operation Protective Edge, Aug. 4, 2014. (Flash 90)

(JTA) — Israel’s new defense minister told senior military leaders that a unified country is more important than holding onto territory and that he is committed to preventing unnecessary conflicts.

Avigdor Liberman, who is known for his hawkish positions as foreign minister, met for the first time Tuesday with the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff and other top brass, the Times of Israel reported.

“I’ve said this before: When there is a clash of values between the unity of the people and territorial integrity, the people are more important,” said Liberman, who heads the Yisrael Beiteinu party and lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.

Liberman was sworn in Monday, replacing Likud member Moshe Yaalon, who resigned from politics earlier this month after learning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was offering his position as part of a deal to bring Yisrael Beiteinu into the governing coalition.

In another gesture of openness to land-for-peace negotiations, Liberman said Monday that he, like Netanyahu, supports parts of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

In response to Liberman and Netanyahu’s remarks, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked vowed Tuesday that her Jewish Home party would never allow a Palestinian state to be established.

“I will say the obvious: As long as we are in the government, there will be no Palestinian state, there will be no settlement evacuations and we will not give any land to our enemies,” Shaked said during a visit to the West Bank with the leader of the Yesha Council settlers umbrella group.

“Today it is clearer than ever,” she continued, according to Arutz Sheva. “The Jewish Home is the only party which fights for settling the land and against the establishment of a Hamas-stan or an ISIS-stan next door to us.”

In his remarks Tuesday, Liberman said Israeli society “can only engage in necessary wars” and not “continuing wars of attrition.”

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