Avigdor Lieberman 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman started off his tenure as strategic affairs minister with a decided swing to the Left this week by advancing projects to help the Palestinians in his meetings in Washington, DC.
Lieberman met on Monday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Steven Hadley, and national intelligence director John Negroponte. In each of the three meetings, Lieberman presented a list of 20 projects to improve the Palestinians' infrastructure in the West Bank and provide them with jobs.
"Before we move on any diplomatic plan, you have to ensure security for the Israelis and prosperity for the Palestinians," Lieberman said to Rice, Hadley and Negroponte, according to a source who attended the meetings. "The average Palestinian has to understand what's in it for him economically." In his speech to the Saban Forum in Washington on Sunday, Lieberman criticized Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Oslo diplomatic process, but he also called to help the Palestinians.
"Israel and the international community must ensure that the standard of living and education level are raised in the future Palestinian state," Lieberman said. "This has to be done by joint projects that both sides have a mutual interest in, for example, in the field of water resources, purification and waste-water treatment. Because you must understand that we will always share common water resources, and you can't divide a ravine."
Lieberman added that "at the end of the day, the average Palestinian man in Gaza or Ramallah cares about three simple things: That he has a job, that he can feed his family, and most importantly, that he can provide a better future for his children."
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, in contrast, surprised his audience by speaking militantly about the dangers of radical Islamic fundamentalism. A source who attended the conference said that Peres "outflanked Lieberman from the Right."
Rice said that she was aware of Lieberman's diplomatic plan. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Robert Danin reportedly said that Rice treated Lieberman better than any Israeli visitor in the past two years.
When Hadley asked Lieberman about developments on the Israeli political map, Lieberman responded by outlining his proposal for electoral reform.
In meetings described as positive, Lieberman spoke with Negroponte for an hour, with Rice for 45 minutes and Hadley for half an hour. They compared their assessments on Iran, as well as different options, intentions and deadlines. Rice, who is an expert on the Cold War, spoke to Lieberman in Russian and also quizzed him about Russian politics.
Lieberman also met with Democratic senators Tom Lantos and Joseph Lieberman, who are set to chair the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security and Government Affairs committees. Minister Lieberman spoke to Senator Lieberman about cooperation on homeland security. They also played the game of Jewish geography but did not discover any family connections.