Israel Egypt border 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Although the primaries for the Labor leadership have yet to begin, Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines said Saturday that if he were elected chairman, he would officially announce his party's refusal to sit in a government with Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman.
The former science, culture and sport minister, speaking at a "culture weekend" in Holon, said he planned to present Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with an ultimatum: Labor or Lieberman.
If the prime minister refused, Paz-Pines said, he would work to remove his party from the coalition.
Paz-Pines quit his position as minister last month after the Labor central committee voted to remain in the coalition with Israel Beiteinu.
Earlier Saturday morning, Lieberman laid out his views on the conflict with the Palestinians, saying Israel should ignore Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, topple the Hamas government and walk away from the US-backed road map peace plan, new Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman said on Saturday.
"Continued devotion to the Oslo Accords and the road map will lead us to another round of confrontations, too much bloodshed and in the end we will find ourselves at a worse dead end than the present one; it puts our whole future in danger," Lieberman said during an interview with Israel Radio.
"There is no point in targeting refugee camps and Beit Hanun and all such places... We have to focus on those who have something to lose - the leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad," he said.
Lieberman said that diplomatic and security initiatives advanced by Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Amir Peretz were pointless. "There is no point in new peace initiatives, and those who initiate them are irresponsible and unwise," he said.
In lieu of the Oslo Accords, Lieberman proposed a series of other measures that he believed Israel should take such as dismissing Abbas, whom he called "an ineffective leader," and instead working with the Jordanian government to "reorganize the West Bank."
"We have a reliable partner there, which is Jordan," he said. "We have to coordinate with Jordan. We have to say that Abbas is simply not relevant, we have to ignore him... He has no authority, no power."
Lieberman's comments caused a stir among left-wing politicians, who accused him of trying to "radicalize" the government.
During a Labor faction meeting Saturday night, MK Ophir Paz-Pines said that if he were elected Labor chairman, he would give Olmert an ultimatum, forcing him to choose between Labor and Israel Beiteinu.
Paz-Pines quit his position as Science, Technology, Culture and Sports Minister when Israel Beiteinu joined the government. Since quitting he has actively campaigned for Labor Party chairman and promised to reshuffle the Defense portfolio.
Meretz Party chairman Yossi Beilin called on Olmert to dismiss Lieberman in light of the interview.
"If [Olmert] doesn't do this, he will carry the responsibility for all of Lieberman's crazy statements, and he won't be able to free himself from them," said Beilin.
"Lieberman's statements that Abbas must be ignored, that the Philadelphi Corridor must be conquered and that Palestinian ministers must be killed become the statements of the entire government as long as Lieberman holds a senior position," he said.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, a top Abbas aide, said Lieberman is stuck in the past and that his ideas "are a recipe for the continuation of bloodshed, violence, extremism and hatred between the two sides."
Since taking his new position in the cabinet, Lieberman has made a number of controversial remarks urging Israel to take a stronger military line toward the Palestinians. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who added Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu Party to the government to stabilize his shaky coalition, has repeatedly stated that Lieberman speaks for himself, and not the government.
Israel also needs to get tougher with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, particularly their leaders, Lieberman said. "I see the entire leadership of Hamas and Jihad walking around freely, and it's continuing to incite," he told the radio. "They... have to disappear, to go to paradise, all of them, and there can't be any compromise."
In response, the leader of the Hamas bloc in the Palestinian parliament, Mushir al-Masri, said any attack on the group's leaders would trigger immediate retaliation.
While Israel has killed Hamas leaders in targeted missiles strikes in recent years, it has not targeted members of the Hamas government elected nine months ago.
Lieberman also suggested retaking the Philadelphi Corridor. At a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense committee last week, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin told Knesset members that the smuggling of weapons from Egypt to Gaza would only get worse. A number of MKs, including Likud MKs Limor Livnat and Yuval Steinitz, have called for the IDF to retake the Philadelphi Corridor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.