Lieberman, Barak want diplomatic negotiations to start

FM says "anyone who talks of the right of return means destroying Israel de facto. There wont be negotiations on the right of return."

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 23, 2011 18:50
3 minute read.
Avigdor Lieberman

Avigdor Lieberman 521. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received wall to wall backing from Right and Left in his coalition on Monday for diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians ahead of two key speeches Netanyahu will deliver in Washington.

While pundits from Washington to Tel Aviv have suggested that Netanyahu took a tough line against US President Barack Obama’s platform on the peace process because of political problems with his coalition, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both encouraged Netanyahu to respond favorably to Obama.

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“There is no need to change every dispute into a drama, and not everything is an apocalypse,” Lieberman said of Obama’s dispute with Israel.

“We agree more than we disagree. Israel is ready for negotiations for peace at any moment with no preconditions. We won’t accept any dictates or preconditions but if they want negotiations, we would welcome it.”

Speaking at the beginning of a meeting of his Israel Beiteinu faction in the Knesset, Lieberman lashed out at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his recent statements ruling out that the Palestinians would relinquish the so-called “right of return” for refugees who left the nascent Jewish state and their descendants from around the world.

“I hear the right of return invoked as a mantra,” Lieberman said.

“Anyone who talks of the right of return means destroying Israel de facto. There won’t be negotiations on the right of return, not even for one refugee,” he said.

“Once we open the issue of the right of return to one refugee, we will get a million. The Palestinians can raise it, but we won't accept even one.”

A political source close to Lieberman said his statements against the right of return were criticizing Abbas and not Obama, who also disappointed Israeli leaders by failing to rule out the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel in a speech to AIPAC on Sunday.

Barak praised Obama’s AIPAC speech at a ministerial meeting in Jerusalem, saying that it presented an opportunity to set aside disputes between the president and Israelis and move forward with the diplomatic process.

“It’s important when facing the uncertainty of the months ahead to find a way to say ‘yes but,’” Barak said. “We should not hide our hesitation or diminish the importance that we give to security concerns. We should find a way to continue moving forward with the Americans and the Europeans to stop the diplomatic tsunami in September.”

The PA is expected to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state in September.

MK Yitzhak Herzog (Labor) told his faction that Netanyahu should have responded to Obama’s Middle East speech at the State Department on Thursday by inviting Abbas to start negotiations on borders immediately.

Herzog also criticized Obama for missing an opportunity to reach out to Israelis by making clear that Palestinians would not return to Israel’s final borders.

“President Obama gave Netanyahu an opportunity to say yes,” Herzog said. “He gave him a volley and Netanyahu could have smashed it but he missed it. Netanyahu should unite Israelis around keeping the settlement blocs, and Obama should calm Israelis by telling them that there is a right of return, but only of Jews to Israel and Arabs to Palestine.”


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