FM: Interim deal currently best option

FM Interim deal current

November 1, 2009 09:55
3 minute read.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that at this current juncture, an interim agreement with the Palestinians should be pursued, rather than a final settlement. "If you are asking if within the next few years it would be possible to achieve comprehensive peace with the Palestinians to end the conflict, then no," Lieberman said in an interview with Army Radio. The foreign minister stressed that it was imperative to improve the situation on the ground, suggesting that "a long-term interim agreement" was the "most obvious" next step toward quiet on the Israeli-Palestinian front, rather than a comprehensive peace agreement. A Palestinian state would not be established within the framework of an interim agreement, he clarified, adding that "the Palestinian state is not an interim objective, but the goal … it was also the goal of the Road Map." The foreign minister referred to the Palestinians' continued insistence on a complete settlement freeze as a condition for resuming peace talks. On Saturday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had announced that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's offer to rein in settlement construction without freezing it completely was an unprecedented concession, drawing criticism from PA officials. One such official was Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who on Sunday stated that a settlement construction freeze would be the only way to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Lieberman, said he didn't "recall that the Abbas administration and previous [Palestinian] governments ever demanded a freeze from the Olmert or Sharon administrations" as a precondition to negotiations. "It's no coincidence that in the past 16 years there were governments that did everything they could to make peace. Peres, Barak, Sharon and Olmert made far-reaching offers - 1967 borders, the division of Jerusalem - but the Palestinians twice refused to accept them," he added. Concerning natural West Bank settlement growth, Lieberman said, "We have no interest in changing demographics, but we need to allow those who live there to have normal lives." The foreign minister went on to say that the peace process must work simultaneously with the Palestinians stopping terror and incitement, but cast doubt on Abbas's ability to deliver. "Abbas comes and says he represents the Palestinian people, but he himself doesn't even control Gaza," he said. When asked whether Israel and its leaders were truly interested in peace at this time, despite doubts that Abbas may not be able to implement agreements in the Gaza Strip, Lieberman replied: "I don't need to be interpreted … I am in favor of the peace process." Also during the interview, the foreign minister referred to the suspended peace talks with Syria, maintaining there would only be peace, if it is in the Palestinians' and Syrians' interests, not just Israel's. However, he said that didn't appear to be the case with Syria, despite recent statements by Syrian President Bashar Assad to the contrary. "We, too, said that we would be willing to meet tomorrow - face to face, not through mediators, sans threats. One cannot speak of peace and then act in the most hostile way possible," said Lieberman. "Syria continues to smuggle arms to Hizbullah, continues to strengthen Jihadists in Damascus," he emphasized, adding that if the Arab republic demonstrated its willingness for peace, Israel "would sit down with the Syrians night and day." Concerning the recent relapse in Turkish-Israeli relations, Lieberman stated that two weeks previously, he had seen "the latest EU report on Turkey, a very severe report … with regard to freedom of expression, oppression of the press, negotiations with Cyprus and a thousand and one other parameters." Lieberman also criticized the "warm embrace" Turkey was giving Iran, saying that it couldn't just be ignored. "We are not playing games," he stated, adding that many in Israel "remember the scene where Erdogan" had accused President Shimon Peres of "knowing well how to kill" before walking out of the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. "Peres is not Israel Beiteinu, he is a Nobel Prize laureate," said the foreign minister. After his interviewer suggested that Lieberman could not possibly represent Israel and be its "display window" when he was being shunned around the world, the latter replied that if he was considered a bull in a china shop, "the china must be damaged and the shop bankrupt." The foreign minister stressed that in recent months, he had met with many officials from Muslim countries, such as Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. "Our relations with the Muslim world are very close," he said. "I think we have been exploring new directions and attitudes," he said, referring to Foreign Ministry activity abroad under his leadership.

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