Give up trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian accord, and focus instead on a comprehensive regional agreement, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting Thursday in Paris.
Liberman, meeting Kerry for the first time since the breakdown in March of the US-backed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, said Israel’s ongoing conflict is not only with the Palestinians, but the entire Arab world – of which the Palestinians are a part.
For that reason, Liberman said, it was necessary to reach an accord that will include the moderate Arab states, the Palestinians and the Arab Israelis. He said this was the first time there was a commonality of interests between Israel and the moderate Arab countries, with both very concerned about an Iranian nuclear threat, al-Qaida and the threat from global jihadists, and that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq will spill over to neighboring countries.
Liberman said that today there was a “foundation” for creating a new “political-diplomatic structure in the Middle East,” adding that the establishment of an independent Kurdish state is a “foregone conclusion” as Iraq is falling apart “before our eyes.”
According to the foreign minister, the extremist elements now wreaking havoc in Iraq will soon turn their sights on the Persian Gulf countries, first and foremost Kuwait. Israel, he said, could be an effective and reliable help to the moderate Arab states facing extremist threats.
Regarding the kidnapped youths – Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gil-Ad Shaer – Liberman told Kerry their parents would like to meet with him.
He also thanked the secretary of state for the US’s “determined” position regarding the gravity with which the US views the kidnappings.
On Wednesday night, following President Shimon Peres’s farewell meeting in Washington with US President Barack Obama, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice posted a tweet saying “all of our hearts are hurting” for the kidnapped students, one of whom she pointed out was American.
She wrote that Obama and the rest of the US government are “deeply concerned,” and are praying for “their safe return and strength for the families in this agonizing vigil.”
She also said “cooperation between Israel and Palestinians was critical in helping the search and to prevent the situation in the West Bank from ‘further destabilizing.’” During a meeting later in the day with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Liberman protested the efforts of some countries and international organizations to balance the kidnappings with the IDF’s actions in the West Bank looking for the boys.
“The two events are not parallel, and it is a mistake to link them and mention them in the same breath,” he said.
On Tuesday, Fabius issued a statement saying he “strongly deplores the incidents that led to the death of two young Palestinians in the West Bank on June 22 in the context of the operations launched following the unacceptable kidnapping of three young Israelis. These Israelis must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
“The increase in these acts of violence is especially troubling,” he said, adding that Israel “must ensure respect for international law with regard to the proportionate use of force and demonstrate restraint in order to avoid any further casualties.”
Liberman thanked France for its “resolute stance” regarding the Iranian nuclear program, with Paris widely viewed as the toughest toward Iran of any of the P5+1 countries, which also includes the US, Russia, China, Britain and Germany.