FM: UN vote on Palestinian statehood shouldn't be overblown

Lieberman says Islamic Republic is influencing outcome of "Arab Spring," Palestinian issue not connected to overall Arab unrest.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER,
June 20, 2011 12:55
2 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Avigdor Lieberman looks sad, crying? 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

The expected vote on Palestinian statehood at the UN in September is “important but not so important,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday, at the second day of the World Jewish Congress’s Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem.

While all eyes were on the possibility that the UN might recognize a Palestinian state, Lieberman warned that Iran had continued to advance its nuclear program, defying the world.

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“The international community has forgotten about the Iranian issue and their desire to achieve nuclear capability,” he said. “It is clear they are no longer trying to conceal it and are doing everything they can to achieve the capability.”

Iran, he said, needs to be on top of Israel’s diplomatic agenda, followed by the situation in the Arab world, and the delegitimization campaign against Israel in the world. Only then did he mention the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

On the issue of the tumult in the Arab world, Lieberman said he hoped to see successful democratic change take root in the region.

“Egypt, our biggest neighbor, is maybe our most reliable partner in the Arab world since ’78,” he said. “We are monitoring the situation in Egypt. I wish for myself and them to have a successful, prosperous and democratic society.”

As to the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, the Israel Beiteinu chairman reiterated that the government was willing to restart negotiations with Palestinians at any time without pre-conditions, despite the “fully fledged smear campaign” their leadership was carrying out against Israel.

He said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had taken a “tougher” position than even Yasser Arafat did on refugees and recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

What is important for Abbas, said Lieberman, noting that the PA leader hoped to resign soon, was “his place in history, and how to provide for him a secure and respectable future.”

Reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, as well as UN recognition of a Palestinian state in September was more important to Abbas “than any solution between us and the Palestinians,” he said.

Also on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak stressed during a meeting in Paris with French Defense Minister Gérard Longuet the need to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear capabilities.

“Iran is working in a sly and sophisticated manner,” Barak said. “They are fooling the world, continuing to develop long-range missiles and trying to get nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands is a problem for the whole world.”

Barak also discussed the next protest flotilla to Gaza, saying there was no need for this since there is “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. If they want to bring goods to Gaza, they can do it through the Ashdod Port or through El-Arish,” he said. “The flotilla is purely a provocation.”

Barak raised with his counterpart the fate of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit – who has both Israeli and French citizenship – and said Hamas was a terrorist organization, and that if it wanted to participate in a Palestinian government it needed to recognize Israel, forswear terrorism, accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and dismantle its terrorist infrastructure.

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon withdrew to the last centimeter in Gaza in 2005, Barak told Longuet, but despite that 10,000 rockets and missiles have been fired on Israel since that time.


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