Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s former foreign minister, apologized after calling supporters of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict “autistic.”
Lieberman, who heads the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, made his remarks Thursday in an interview with Israel Radio.
“Anyone who thinks going back to the 1967 lines will solve the conflict is autistic,” Liberman said.
Lieberman, who declined to join the new government coalition after serving in the previous coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, accused the prime minister of waffling on the two-state issue – now saying he supports it after indicating during the election that it was no longer in the offing.
Jay Ruderman, the head of the Ruderman Family Foundation, had earlier demanded that Lieberman apologize. In a statement released later Thursday, he cited Lieberman as stating, “I didn’t mean in any way to offend autistic people, but wanted to illustrate the unwillingness of some people to accept certain realities about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I apologize if anyone was hurt.”
Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, acknowledged Lieberman’s apology for using the term autistic as an insult directed at Netanyahu.
“We hope this was a teaching moment for MK Lieberman that it is highly inappropriate to use a disability in a derogatory manner,” said Ruderman, whose foundation is dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Israelis and American Jews, and to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the broader society. “We are gratified that he has publicly apologized and distanced himself from the remark.”
Also Thursday, Lieberman said Netanyahu should cancel a scheduled meeting with the head of the Joint Arab List party. The Arab-Israeli party, headed by Ayman Odeh and made up of the major Arab-Israeli parties, is the third largest in the Knesset with 13 seats.
Netanyahu went ahead with the meeting, however. He and Odeh discussed the socio-economic advancement of Israel’s Arab citizens, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, and Netanyahu reminded Odeh of the many investments that his governments has made in the Arab sector over the past six years. The prime minister added that it was necessary to continue reducing the gaps in Israeli society.
Odeh in a statement following the meeting said he took the prime minister to task for his Election Day warning that Arab voters were flocking to the polls.
Lieberman in pushing Netanyahu to cancel the meeting said Odeh “represents a list of terror supporters in the Israeli parliament.”