Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday that while he acknowledges the special relationship between Israel and the United States, he is convinced that “the Americans have erred in the past regarding settlements, and they are erring big time today.”
Liberman’s remarks to Channel 2’s main political talk show “Meet the Press” came against the backdrop of more reports regarding Washington’s dissatisfaction with Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. One report by a US-based online newspaper quoted a source as saying that Martin Indyk, the State Department’s envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, placed full responsibility for the failure of the negotiations on Israel.
“Israel and the United States are the truest of friends,” the foreign minister told Channel 2. “This cooperation has yielded tremendous results to this day. [But] the Americans have been wrong in the past, and they are dead wrong today because Jewish settlement activity has never been an obstacle to peace, neither in the agreement with Egypt or in the peace treaty with Jordan.”
“We need to do everything smartly, and not to allow ourselves to be provoked and lash out,” Liberman said. “You need to explain your position and be consistent. There’s no need to clash with the Americans, but you can’t capitulate either. Instead, what you could do is offer an alternative and persuade the Americans.”
The foreign minister said that he will present his own alternative proposals to Netanyahu and Secretary of State John Kerry. These proposals will presumably include his plan for “territorial swaps” which would see Israeli Arab townships currently within the boundaries of Israel proper offered to the Palestinians in exchange for Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.
“There is no stalemate,” Liberman said. “Just because there are no negotiations going on right now doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening.”
While reiterating his view that Abbas was not a peace partner, Liberman said that Israel’s real interlocutors on the Palestinian side are businessmen who “have suffered from Abbas’ corruption, but they find it inconceivable to accept Hamas rule. They are our partners.”
“I don’t understand why Abbas meets with opposition lawmakers and Israeli journalists,” Liberman said. “We never meet with the Palestinian opposition.”
Liberman refused to confirm reports that he has met numerous times with Abbas’ fierce rival within Fatah, Mohammed Dahlan, the former head of security for the PA in the Gaza Strip.
Liberman’s remarks drew a stern rebuke from Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On.
“The individual that did everything to sabotage the negotiations with the Palestinians and who now wishes to circumvent Abu Mazen (Abbas’ nom de guerre) by means of ‘connections’ with ‘the Palestinian business community’ is not a partner and never wanted to come to an agreement,” she said.
“Now, by means of media spin and distractions, Liberman is abdicating responsibility for his part in the failure of the talks,” she said. “Liberman is unfit to continue to serve as foreign minister of the State of Israel because he is causing Israel’s isolation on the international stage.”