Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to criticism leveled against him following the controversial speech he gave to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, stating that as long as there is no breakthrough in negotiations with the Palestinians, nothing prevents him from giving his opinion. Lieberman's comments came in an interview with Israel Radio on Wednesday.

Lieberman responded specifically to Defense Minister Ehud Barak's contention that the foreign minister's comments to the General Assembly did not reflect the stance of the Israeli government. Lieberman said that Barak stated last week that Jerusalem should be divided in a potential peace agreement with the Palestinians, yet he heard no one protest the fact that the defense minister's views did not echo those of the government.

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The foreign minister said that his own views are clear, consistent and known to all and they do not contradict the government's fundamental position.

Barak said Tuesday night that Lieberman's comments do not reflect the Israeli government's stance and certainly not the Labor party's attitude.

It's essential to make peace with the Palestinians and not to play into the hands of Israel's enemies, Barak said.

Labor Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman called on Netanyahu to fire the foreign minister.

"Lieberman undermined the prime minister and Netanyahu should fire him for it. Lieberman's delusional speech was well-planned and was intended to heat up the atmosphere and harm the peace process. This adds to a long list of incidents in which Lieberman tried to undermine the prime minister."

Earlier on Tuesday evening, Lieberman spoke to Channel 2 news and said  that the Palestinians are not interested in peace, and the time has come for Israel to stop blaming itself for failing to achieve peace.

The foreign minister also defended comments he made on Tuesday afternoon at the UN General Assembly.

Earlier on Tuesday evening, Lieberman spoke to Channel 2 news and said  that the Palestinians are not interested in peace, and the time has come for Israel to stop blaming itself for failing to achieve peace.

The foreign minister also defended comments he made on Tuesday afternoon at the UN General Assembly.

In his speech before the General Assembly, Lieberman told international leaders that he believed that Israel must arrive at an interim agreement with the Palestinians, that peace would only be possible after a number of decades, and that an ultimate agreement would require population and territorial exchanges.

The foreign minister said during the Channel 2 interview that at the UN he talked about the facts and expressed the opinions of "the majority of the Israeli public" on the issue of peace negotiations.

He said that everyone wants peace and "maybe the time has come to change the direction of negotiations."

"Peace needs to come naturally, its like a premature birth - if it comes to early then it can be dangerous," Lieberman said.

Prime Minister Netanyahu's office distanced itself almost immediately from the remarks by informing the media that his speech had not been coordinated with Netanyahu.

Despite Netanyahu’s speedy disassociation from the controversial statements made by Lieberman, Kadima jumped to the bit, accusing the prime minister of failing to maintain a united coalition on issues of foreign policy.

“The “A” Prime Minister Netanyahu talks about a final agreement and two states, Prime Minister “B” Lieberman speaks about an interim agreement and population exchange, while Prime Minister “C” Yishai does not believe in an agreement,” mocked MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima). “The Netanyahu government speaks with a number of voices and it seems as though Prime Minister Netanyahu represents only his own perspective. This shows Netanyahu’s weakness, as he is unable to advance his stance among his ministers and his coalition partners. This is a government without a head, without a leader, and without a direction.”

MK Nahman Shai (Kadima) echoed Hasson’s statements, saying that “the Prime Minister needs to decide if he is running a country or conducting a choir. The foreign minister’s statements are in complete opposition to the declared policies of the government, both regarding the connection between the Iranian problem and the peace process, as well as in his reference to the process as a gesture to the world community rather than as a vital Israeli interest.”

MK Majalee Whbee (Kadima) took his criticism a step further, blasting not simply Lieberman’s comments, but also describing Netanyahu’s response as “flaccid”, saying that it was an “additional proof that  Netanyahu prefers coalitional peace over regional peace.”

Kadima was not the only party in the coalition to take the opportunity to attack Lieberman’s statements.  “It is known that he who places the mission of peace on the next generation strives for war and not for peace,” complained Meretz Faction Chairman MK Ilan Gilon.

Gilon said that Israel must reach a holistic solution with the Palestinians, but that Lieberman is trying to do harm to any future agreement, leaving Israel as a policy of eternal warfare. “It is clear that the fundamentalist forces are the enemy of democracy, and they must be addressed through a strategic alliance with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, alongside an agreement with the Palestinians while strengthening the Palestinian Authority against its enemies at home.”

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