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(photo credit: Ori Porat)
The scope of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's ability to negotiate at the upcoming Annapolis peace summit was challenged yet again on Sunday, as coalition partner Israel Beiteinu presented him with a new set of demands.
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman presented the document, which argued that a final-status agreement with the Palestinians should be based on a territorial exchange and mutual recognition of the need for two separate states.
"We won't remain partners in the government if there are significant negotiations on the core subjects," said Lieberman.
The document demanded that Olmert insist on a "complete end" to all Palestinian terrorist activities. In the event that the Palestinian Authority is unable to stop terror groups, Lieberman proposed, NATO forces should be deployed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Lieberman reiterated his party's policy, which calls for land swaps - including in some east Jerusalem neighborhoods - and discounts the possibility of a "safe passage" between the Gaza and the West Bank.
"The State of Israel will not allow passage between Gaza and Judea and Samaria that transverses its sovereign territory," the statement read. "This situation is congruent with the one that existed prior to June 4, 1967."
There must be no Israeli concessions on Jerusalem holy sites, nor a symbolic return of Palestinian refugees, in any agreement with the Palestinians, Lieberman continued.
Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have already said the Annapolis conference would not be a forum for such concessions.
"That [Lieberman] felt a need to reiterate his stance is not a good sign," a senior Kadima MK said. "It is a threatening move meant to show off to his constituency. It is a move taken out of [opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu's] stylebook."
Lieberman further expressed adamant opposition to any concessions over Palestinian refugees' "right of return."
Even on the "humanitarian level," Lieberman said, "this issue is absolute and non-negotiable."
Arab MKs responded harshly to the Israel Beiteinu document, with Hadash chairman Muhammad Barakei saying Lieberman's declarations would "torpedo peace talks even before they have begun."
Barakei called Lieberman a "troublemaker" who sat in the government and preached "coarse violence."
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said Israeli Arabs were opposed to the "Jerusalem for Umm el-Fahm," deal.
"Lieberman should calm down," he said. "There won't be a deal if there is no essential change in Israel's stance toward the Arab peace initiative."
MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL) said, "There can be no peace agreement without the dismantlement of settlements and the removal of settlers, including immigrants who have come from abroad and have taken control in the West Bank of land that doesn't belong to them."
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