While praising US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday night that a final-status resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not currently possible. What was possible, he said, was a long-term interim agreement.
“It is important that when we talk to the Palestinians, we tell the truth,” Liberman told the Post. “Under current conditions, there is no chance to reach a final-status agreement, and therefore the ambition needs to be to reach a long-term interim deal. A final-status agreement is a vision and the final result, but we cannot skip stages, and the real stage now is a long-term interim arrangement.”
Liberman said Israel would not take any steps to change the status quo on the Temple Mount in light of Trump’s announcement.
“The status quo on the Temple Mount will continue and be preserved without any change,” Liberman said – in what seemed to be a message directed at the Arab street to prevent a possible violent escalation.
According to Liberman, Trump’s declaration opened, and did not close, the door – as some Arab leaders warned – for possible diplomatic progress.
“Like all Israelis, I want to thank Trump for standing by his promise. This has historic importance and we appreciate it,” he said.
“This declaration,” he went on, “opens the door to advance the diplomatic dialogue. Now that there is a clear stance on one of the important issues, it gives a boost to be able to have a clear and real dialogue with the Palestinians.”
Liberman said he appreciated the efforts the White House has been making to help forge a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
“But at the same time there needs to be a direct dialogue between the sides, since that is how you make the big breakthroughs, like in the peace talks with Egypt and Jordan, and we cannot achieve real accomplishments without direct talks,” he said.
According to the defense minister, a final-status agreement would become possible only after the Palestinian economy undergoes a major upgrade.
“I don’t think we can reach an agreement when we have GDP per capita in Israel of $40,000 and they have GDP per capita of $3,000,” he said. “Only when they reach $20,000 will we be able to solve all the core issues and reach a final-status agreement.”
Liberman also spoke about the importance of Jewish ethnic nationalism in Israel. In a final-status resolution, he said, there would need to be land and population swaps to ensure a separation between Israelis and Palestinians.
“The current model of a solution – that there will be a homogeneous Palestinian state without a single Jew, and Israel will be a binational state with more than 20% Arabs who identify themselves as Palestinians – is unacceptable,” he said. “If they have a right for a homogeneous state, then we will also need to demand a Jewish homogeneous state, and therefore the solution, as I see it, needs to include the component of land and population swaps.