Even as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to lure the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that he does not see any chance for a comprehensive agreement in the next 10 to 20 years.
"We think that if we make more concessions everything will work out," he said at a speech to the country's 140 ambassadors and consul-generals who are participating in a conference this week in Jerusalem. "Even if we return the last grain of sand, and divide Jerusalem, and agree to all the demands, nothing will change and we will be in the same situation."
Lieberman cast doubt on the ability of the Palestinian leadership to ever reach an end of the conflict with Israel.
"Israel has proved more than any other country that it is ready for painful concessions," he said. "We brought here a group of terrorists from Tunisia, we gave them guns and a government and even gave up Gush Katif."
Lieberman said that the leadership of the PA was neither ready nor willing to "sign on a peace agreement whose significance is an end to the conflict. It doesn't matter what we offer, they will always find an excuse to say 'no.'"
As proof of his thesis, Lieberman pointed to former prime minister Ehud Olmert who he said agreed to give the Palestinians "everything, including Jerusalem, refugees and a return to the 1967 borders - and nothing happened."
The foreign minister said Netanyahu went a long distance toward the Palestinians by delivering his Bar-Ilan University speech on June 14, in which he spoke of a demilitarized Palestinian state, removed numerous roadblocks throughout the West Bank, and declared a 10-month moratorium on housing starts.
"We need to tell the world that there are no 'magic solutions,'" Lieberman said. "We will not get to a permanent agreement in the coming decade, or the one after that. The Palestinians are even unable to reach a stable peace agreement among themselves."
Lieberman also used the forum to make it perfectly clear that he was opposed to indirect talks with Syria, and especially opposed to mediation from Turkey, whose prime minister has lambasted Israel continuously over the last year.
"I am not picking a fight with anyone," Lieberman said, "but unsuitable things were said by the prime minister of Turkey."
In an apparent reference to the recent meeting in Copenhagen between President Shimon Peres and Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Lieberman said, "If anyone thinks that there will be meetings at the highest levels, and everything will be okay, they should forget about it.
"As long as I am foreign minister, and as long as Israel Beiteinu is the senior member of the coalition, there will not be Turkish mediation between us and Syria, but rather only direct talks, in Jerusalem and in Damascus."
Taking a swipe at Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who went to Turkey recently and hinted that Ankara could still play the role of a mediator, Lieberman said that "just because some actors on the fringes in the government offer a role for Turkish mediation, they should forget about it and concentrate on the business of their own ministries."
Lieberman said there was no need for secret diplomacy with Syria. "Those who want to be a friend, let them do it publicly." He did not field questions or comments from the ambassadors, but is scheduled to meet with them again during the week.
After he left, a number of ambassadors, including Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, Ambassador to the EU Ran Curiel, and Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor briefed their colleagues on the situation in their respective countries. These briefings were closed to the press.
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are scheduled to meet the envoys on Monday.
Lieberman's comments about Turkey stood in stark contrast to comments his deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, made three weeks ago to a group of visiting Turkish journalists and academics.
"We appreciate Turkish efforts and the previous talks [with Syria] did not fail because of Turkey, but rather because of Syrian intransigence," he said.
"However, if in the future we make progress with the Syrians and we will seek assistance from a third party, Turkey will be the first nation we will turn to," he said.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, has made clear that he preferred direct talks with Syria, and that if third party mediation was necessary, he would rather see France than Turkey involved.