Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman continued his recent efforts to play the role of the “responsible adult” in Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians on Wednesday when he advised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to continue negotiations rather than turn to the UN.
Speaking to a hall packed with Yisrael Beytenu activists in Jerusalem, Liberman said Israel should not run after the Palestinians if they do not want to negotiate. Israel had done everything possible to advance a diplomatic agreement, and the ball was now in the hands of the Palestinians, he said.
“When the Palestinians joined UNESCO [in October 2011], it didn’t give them independence or bring about Middle East peace,” the foreign minister said. “It’s a mistake for them to go to the UN, but it’s what they want to do and it’s their right.”
Liberman told the crowd that he was embarking on a lengthy trip to the United States where he said he would meet with Secretary of State John Kerry and address Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York. He defended Kerry and praised his efforts to bring about an agreement with the Palestinians. “We proved Israel is ready to reach a final-status agreement with the Palestinians,” Liberman said. “But as much as Israel wanted to, it doesn’t look like it’s happening.
In the last government, we also made difficult gestures, including a settlement freeze; and then, too, it didn’t get us a millimeter closer to an agreement with the Palestinians.”
Liberman blasted Abbas for wanting a future Palestinian state to be Judenrein and for “interfering in internal Israeli affairs” by asking for Israeli Arab terrorists to be freed. He said he would oppose any agreement in which Israeli Arabs are released.
But sources close to him said privately that if Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard were part of the deal, he would let his party’s five cabinet ministers vote their conscience.
If so, Yisrael Beytenu ministers Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Sofa Landver would vote in favor, which would enable the deal to pass.
Liberman spoke before American-brokered talks between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat resumed on Wednesday night. Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) blasted Livni for talking to Erekat after the Palestinians had turned to the UN. He called upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to stop the talks.
“Meeting with Erekat after the Palestinians violated their commitments by going to the UN shames the State of Israel,” Elkin said.
“The time has come to stop being the Middle East’s sucker.”
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu), who will also speak at the conference in New York, said the international community needed to face reality in the Middle East.
“We need to tell the public the truth,” he said. “There is no chance of a peace agreement, but there can be a long-term interim agreement.”
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel said his Bayit Yehudi party had predicted correctly that the talks with the PLO would not lead anywhere. He said his party would not quit the coalition if negotiations resumed, but he cautioned against paying any price for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
“They ambushed us and now they want a prize,” Ariel said. “We need to stop letting them spit on us in hopes that it will be rain. They broke the rules. They are no longer in the game.”
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